PAR T T HREE
FINDING STOCKS TO BUY AND SELL
It’s Really Fundamental: Introduction to Fundamental
Analysis 89 Fundamental Analysis: Tools and Tactics 97
Let’s Get Technical: Introduction to Technical Analysis
107 Technical Analysis: Tools and Tactics 131 The
Psychology of Stocks: Introduction to Sentiment Analysis
PAR T F OUR
What Makes Stocks Go Up or Down 149 Why Investors
Lose Money 157 What I Really Think about the Stock
Market Index 189
I’d like to give special thanks:
To Stephen Isaacs and Jeffrey Krames at McGraw-Hill for once again giving me the opportunity to do what I love most, and to Pattie Amoroso for helping me put the pieces together to produce a book.
To my researcher, Maria Schmidt, who found the answer to nearly everything I asked; Tine Claes, who never fails to find something that needs improvement; and Lois Sincere, who has truly mastered the
idiosyncrasies of the English language.
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What Is a Share of Stock?
We’re not talking about livestock! Actually, the word stock originally did come from the word livestock. Instead of trading cows and sheep, however, we trade pieces of paper that represent ownership—
shares— in a corporation. You may also hear people refer to stocks as equities or securities. Most people just call them stocks, which means supply. (After all, the entire stock market is based on the
economic theory of supply and demand.)
When you buy shares of stock in a corporation, you are com-monly referred to as an investor or a shareholder. When you own a share of stock, you are sharing in the success of the business, and you
actually become a part owner of the corporation. When you buy a stock, you get one vote for each share of stock you own. The more shares you own, therefore, the more of the corporation you control.
Most shareholders own a tiny sliver of the corporation, with little control over how the corporation is run and no ability to boss anyone in the corporation around. You’d have to own millions of shares of
stock to become a primary owner of a corporation whose stock is publicly traded.
In summary, a corporation issues shares of stock so that it can attract money. Investors are willing to buy stock in a corporation in order to receive the opportunity to sell the stock at a higher price. If the
corporation does well, the stock you own will probably go up in price, and you’ll make money. If the corporation does poorly, the stock you own will probably go down in price, and you’ll lose money (if
you sell, that is).
Stock Certificates: Fancy-Looking Pieces of Paper
Stock certificates are written proof that you have invested in the cor-poration. (Some people don’t realize that you invest in companies, not stocks.) Although some people ask for the stock certificates so
that they can keep them in a safe place, most people let a brokerage firm hold their stock certificates. It is a lot easier that way. To be technical, there are actually two kinds of stock, common and pre-
ferred. In this book, we will always be talking about common stock, because that is the only type that most corporations issue to investors. Remember, not all companies issue stock. A company has to be
what is called a corporation, a legally defined term. Most of the large companies you have heard of are corporations, and, yes, their stocks are all traded in the stock market. I’m talking about corpora-tions
like Microsoft, IBM, Disney, General Motors, General Electric, and McDonald’s.
You Buy Stocks for Only One Reason: To Make Money
The stock market is all about making money. Quite simply, if you buy stock in a corporation that is doing well and making profits, then the stock you own should go up in price. (By the way, the profits
you make from a stock are called capital gains, which are the difference between what you paid for a stock and what you sold it for. If you lose money, it is called a capital loss.)
You make money in the stock market by buying a stock at one price and selling it at a higher price. It’s that simple. There is no guarantee, of course, that you’ll make money. Even the stocks of good
corporations can sometimes go down. If you buy stocks in corporations that do well, you should be rewarded with a higher stock price. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that is the risk you take
when you participate in the market.
New York: Where Stock Investing Became Popular
Before there was a place called the stock market, buyers and sellers had to meet in the street. Sometime around 1790, they met every weekday under a buttonwood tree in New York. It just happened that
the name of the street where all this took place was Wall Street. (For history buffs, the buttonwood tree was at 68 Wall Street.)
A lot of people heard what was happening on Wall Street and wanted a piece of the action. On some days, as many as 100 shares of stock were exchanged! (In case you don’t think that’s funny, in today’s
market, billions of shares of stock are exchanged every day.)
It got so crowded in the early days that 24 brokers and merchants who controlled the trading activities decided to organize what they were doing. For a fixed commission, they agreed to buy and sell shares
of stock in corporations to the public. They gave themselves a quarter for each share of stock they traded (today we would call them stock-brokers). The Buttonwood Agreement, as it was called, was
signed in 1792. This was the humble beginning of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
It wasn’t long before the brokers and merchants moved their offices to a Wall Street coffee shop. Eventually, they moved indoors permanently to the New York Stock Exchange Building on Wall Street.
Keep in mind that a stock exchange is simply a place where people go to buy and sell stocks. It provides an organized marketplace for stocks, just as a supermarket provides a marketplace for food.
Even after 200 years, the name Wall Street is a symbol for the U.S. stock exchanges and the financial institutions that do business with them, no matter what their physical location. If you go to New York,
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you’ll see that Wall Street is just a narrow street in the financial district of Lower Manhattan. Therefore, the stock market, or Wall Street, is really a convenient way of talking about anyone or anything
connected to our financial markets.
Three Major Stock Exchanges
After the NYSE was formed, there were also brokers trading stocks who weren’t considered good enough for the New York Stock Exchange. Traders who couldn’t make it on the NYSE traded on the
street curb, which is why they were called curbside traders. Eventually, these traders moved indoors and established what later became the American Stock Exchange (AMEX).
There is also a third major stock exchange, the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System (Nasdaq), which was created in 1971. This was the first electronic stock exchange;
it was hooked together by a network of computers. (Yes, they did have computers back then.)
Competition is good for the stock market. It forces the stock exchanges to fill your orders faster and more cheaply. After all, they want your business. There are stock exchanges in nearly every country in
the world, although the U.S. market is the largest. U.S. stock exchanges other than the three major ones include the Cincinnati Stock Exchange, the Pacific Stock Exchange, the Boston Stock Exchange,
and the Philadel-phia Stock Exchange (the Philadelphia Stock Exchange is our country’s oldest organized stock exchange). Other countries with stock exchanges include England, Germany, Switzerland,
France, Holland, Russia, Japan, China, Sweden, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and Australia, to name only a few.
A few years ago, in order to compete more effectively against the NYSE, the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), which owns the Nasdaq, and the AMEX merged. Although the two
exchanges are operated separately, the merger allowed them to jointly introduce new investment products. This is interesting, but it doesn’t really affect you as an investor. In the end, it doesn’t really
matter from which exchange you buy stocks.
Joining a Stock Exchange
It’s not easy for a corporation to be listed on, or join, a stock exchange because each exchange has many rules and regulations. It can take years for a corporation to meet all the requirements and join the
exchange. The stock exchanges list corporations that fit the goals and philosophy of the particular exchange.
For example, the companies that are listed on the NYSE are some of the best-known and biggest corporations in the United States—blue-chip corporations like Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Johnson &
Johnson, and Coca-Cola. The Nasdaq, on the other hand, contains many technology corporations like Cisco Systems, Intel, and Sun Microsystems. In addi-tion, stocks that are traded “over the
counter” (OTC) are located on the Nasdaq. By the way, there are over 5000 stocks traded on the three U.S. stock exchanges and another 5000 smaller companies traded over the counter.
Corporations: Convincing People to Buy Their Stock
Once a corporation goes public and allows its stock to be traded, the trick is to convince investors that the corporation will be profitable. Corporations do everything in their power to attract money from in-
vestors. Bigger corporations spread the word through print and televi-sion advertising. Smaller corporations might rely on word of mouth, emails, or news releases. The more people there are who believe
in a corporation, the more people there will be who will buy its stock, and the more money the people on Wall Street will make. Now do you understand why everyone is always saying such good things
about the market? If you’re lucky, you’ll also make a few bucks if you invest in a profitable corporation.
Now that you have some idea of what happens in the back rooms of the stock brokerage, I’m going to take you upstairs. First, I will intro-duce you to the three types of people who participate in the
market: individual investors, traders, and professionals. By the time you finish this book, you should have a better idea of where you fit in.
Investors buy stocks in corporations that they believe in and plan to hold those stocks for the long term (usually a year or longer). Investors generally choose to ignore the short-term day-to-day price
fluctuations of the market. If all goes according to plan, they find that the value of their investment has increased over time.
One of the most profitable buy-and-hold investors of our time, Warren Buffett, likes to say that he is not buying a stock, he is buying a business. He buys stocks for the best price he can and holds them as
long as he can—forever, if possible. (When asked when he sells, Buf-fett once said, “Never.”)
Keep in mind, however, that Buffett buys stocks in conservative (some would say boring) corporations like insurance companies and banks and rarely buys technology stocks. Buffett became a billionaire
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using his long-term buy-and-hold investment strategy (a strategy is a plan that helps you determine what stocks to buy or sell).
Investors who bought shares of stock in Caterpillar (CAT), Lock-heed Martin (LMT), and Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (MMM), for example, saw the value of their investments increase over
time, especially during the latter half of the 1990s. Actually, there was never a better time to be an investor than during the 1990s. You bought shares of a corporation you knew and believed in, then sat
back and watched the value of the shares increase by 25, 50, or 100 percent. (This is as good as it gets for investors!)
Unlike investors, short-term traders don’t care about the long-term prospects of a corporation. Their goal is to take advantage of the short-term movements in a stock or the market. This means that they
may buy and then sell a stock within 5 minutes, a few hours, a few days, or even a week or month on occasion. When you are a trader, you are pri-marily focused on the price of a stock, not on the business
of the cor-poration.
There are many kinds of short-term traders. Some of you may have heard the term day trader, which refers to a very aggressive short-term trader. For example, a day trader might buy a stock at $10 a share
with a plan to sell it at $10.50 or $11, usually within the same day. If the stock goes down in price, he or she will probably sell it quickly for a small loss. In other words, day traders buy stocks in the
morning and sell them for a higher price a few minutes or hours later. Generally, they move all their money back to cash by the end of the day. Keep in mind that it’s extremely hard to consistently make
money as a day trader. Only a small percentage of people make a living at it.
Professional traders use other people’s money (and sometimes their own) to make investments or trades on behalf of clients. Professionals include individuals who work for Wall Street brokerages and
stock exchanges, but they also include institutional traders like pension funds, banks, and mutual fund companies.
There is no doubt that institutional investors that have access to millions of dollars influence not only individual stocks but the entire market. Some of these institutions have set up computer programs that
automatically buy or sell stocks when certain prices have been reached. (On days when the market is up or down hundreds of points, the stock exchanges limit how much institutional investors can buy or
If you want to be a professional Wall Street trader, you can also apply to become a member of one of the exchanges. At current prices, it will cost you several million dollars to buy a seat on the NYSE,
and all you get for this is the freedom to trade stocks directly on the exchange floor. (For that kind of money, you’d think they’d let you play golf and swim! For a few million dollars less, you can trade
directly from the comfort of your own home.) Some people with seats rent them out to professional traders and thus bring in extra income.
How Wall Street Keeps Score
Wall Street has several ways to keep track of the market. One of the eas-iest ways to find out how the market is performing each day is to look at a newspaper, television, or the Internet. Typically, people
look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), the most popular method of determining whether the market is up or down for the day.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average
In 1884, a reporter named Charles Dow calculated an average of the closing prices of 12 railroad stocks; this became known as the Dow Jones Transportation Average. His goal was to find a way to
measure how the stock market did each day. He then wrote comments about the stock market in a four-page daily newspaper called a “flimsie,” which later became the Wall Street Journal.
A few years later, the company Charles Dow helped start, Dow Jones, launched the Dow Jones Industrial Average, consisting of 12 industrial stocks. If you know about averages, you know that you basi-
cally add up the prices of the stocks in the index and divide by the num-ber of stocks to create a daily average. By watching the Dow, you can get a general idea of how the market is doing. It also gives us
clues to the trend of the market, whether it is going up, down, or sideways. (The trend is simply the direction in which a stock or market is going.)
The original 12 stocks in the Dow were the biggest and most popu-lar companies at the end of the nineteenth century—for example, Amer-ican Tobacco, Distilling and Cattle Feeding, U.S. Leather, and
General Electric, to name a few. Guess which stock still remains in the index? (If you guessed General Electric, you are right. The other corporations either went out of business or merged with other
By 1928, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was increased to 30 stocks, which is the number of stocks in the index today. (By the way, this index is sometimes called the Dow 30.) These 30 stocks are a
cross section of the most important sectors in the stock market. (A sector is a group of companies in the same industry, such as technology, utilities, or energy.) Over time, the Dow changed from an equal-
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weighted index to one in which different stocks have different weights. This means that stocks with a higher weighting affect the Dow index more than stocks with a lower weighting. For example, since
American Express is weighted high in today’s market, if this stock is having a bad day and falls by several points, the Dow could end up down for the day.
It’s easy to find out how the Dow did each day—it’s reported in the media. Since more than half of the public is invested in the stock mar-ket, there is a lot of interest in what the Dow does each day.
Therefore, when we talk about the Dow Jones being up or down each day, we’re really talking about a representative group of 30 stocks, the Dow 30. Even if the market is down for the day, the stock you
own could be up, or the other way around.
Although the Dow (operated by the Wall Street Journal) was the first index to keep track of stocks, hundreds of other indexes have been cre-ated to track almost everything from transportation to utilities
to tech-nology stocks. Some sophisticated investors keep an eye on many of these indexes, but most people watch just three.
The next most popular index (after the Dow) is the Nasdaq Com-posite Index, which tracks the more than 5000 stocks listed on the Nas-daq. On television or on the Internet, when you see the Dow listed,
you will almost always see the Nasdaq below it.
The third index that many people watch closely is the S&P 500. If you guessed that this contains 500 stocks, you are right. These are 500 stocks that Standard & Poor’s Corporation (S&P) has selected to
repre-sent the overall stock market. They are usually the largest stocks and include a lot of technology stocks. Other popular indexes are the Rus-sell 2000 index and the Wilshire 5000. You’ll learn later
that you can invest directly in them, since they trade just like stocks.
If you were a professional money manager, your goal each year would be to beat the major indexes. What does this mean? It means that if the Dow is up 15 percent this year, you would try to get 15
percent or more. The bad news is that it’s very hard for people, even professional investors, to beat the indexes. In 2001, it was reported that 50 percent of the professional money managers don’t beat the
indexes each year. In 2002, it was reported that only 37 percent of the professional man-agers beat the indexes.
It’s All About Points
To measure how much you make or lose in the stock market, Wall Street uses a system of points that represent dollars. For example, if your stock went from $5 a share to $10 a share, we would say that
your stock went up 5 points. That’s how we keep score on Wall Street, but accountants and market analysts make it seem a lot more complicated than it is.
The same type of scoring is done with the major indexes like the Dow, the Nasdaq, and the S&P 500. If the Dow went from 10,000 to 10,100, you would say the market went up by 100 points. If your
stock went from $10 a share to $11 a share, you made a point, not a dollar.
Note: Although it’s okay to tell people how many points you made or your percentage gain, it’s not polite to tell people the exact amount of money you made on a stock deal. Even if you made $5000 in 5
min-utes, it’s best to keep it to yourself. To be polite, stick to the point sys-tem and avoid talking about money.
How Much Is It Going to Cost?
If you can figure out the following calculation, then you will under-stand how to buy or sell stock. Just as in an auction, every stock has a price. This price changes frequently—every few seconds for some
stocks. Let’s say that a stock you’re interested in, Bright Light, is cur-rently trading at $20 a share. You decide you want to buy 100 shares. The math goes like this: 100 shares multiplied by $20 a share
will cost you $2000. That means you must pay $2000 if you want to buy 100 shares of Bright Light (plus commission, of course).
This is so important that I’ll give you another example. Let’s say you want to buy 1000 shares of a stock that is selling for $15 a share. How much will it cost you? The answer is $15,000. One more
example: Let’s say you want to buy 100 shares of a stock that costs $5 a share. The answer is $500.
How Much Did You Make?
Let’s say you decide to buy 1000 shares of a stock that costs $15 a share. It will cost you $15,000. If the stock goes to $16, you have made 1 point. If the stock goes to $17, you have made 2 points. Here’s
the important part: If you have 1000 shares of a stock and you made 1 point, you made $1000 in profit. If the stock goes up 2 points, you made $2000 in profit. So the more shares you own, the more
money you’ll make (or lose).
(More examples? If you own 100 shares of a stock and it goes up 1 point, you made $100. If you own 100 shares of a stock and it goes up by 5 points, you made $500.)
What If No One Wants to Buy or Sell Your Stock?
This is actually a very good question. It’s like having a house sale that no one goes to. To solve this problem, the stock exchanges have set up a system in which there is always someone on the other side
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of a trans-action. In other words, there will always be a buyer or seller for you. You may not get the best price, but at least you know that there is someone who is willing to sell you the stock or buy it from
you if you own it.
On the NYSE, there is one person, a specialist, who acts as the intermediary for each stock. The specialists “make a market” for every stock listed on the exchange. This means that the specialist keeps
track of and fills all of the orders for a particular stock that comes in, some-times using his or her own money if no one else wants to buy or sell the stock. Does this sound like a fun job? Handheld
computers make the job a lot easier. Before computers, the specialists used to fill the orders by hand. Once orders increased from hundreds to billions of shares, computers were installed to handle the
You might wonder how the specialists get paid, since they are using their own money to fill the orders. First of all, because specialists know the stock so well, they are able to buy it at the lowest possible
price and sell it to you at the highest possible price. It doesn’t sound really fair, but that’s how they make their money. They also get a cut on every trade they make. They claim this is to compensate them
for the risk they take when they use their own money to buy or sell.
If you are investing in only a few hundred shares, or even a few thousand, it’s not worth your time to worry too much about the pennies the intermediaries make on each trade. It’s the million-share traders
who try to save money on each trade. By the way, those pennies add up to thousands of dollars every day for the specialists. They make money whether the market goes up or down.
At the Nasdaq market, the computerized stock exchange, buyers and sellers are matched with the help of an intermediary called a mar-ket maker. Unlike the arrangement at the NYSE, where only one spe-
cialist is assigned to a stock, at the Nasdaq you can have multiple market makers for a stock. The more popular the stock, the more mar-ket makers will be assigned to the stock.
For instance, a stock like Microsoft could have as many as 30 market makers, while a $1 stock might have only one market maker. There is, however, at least one market maker assigned to each Nasdaq
stock. Keep in mind that all of this happens behind the scenes within seconds. Because billions of shares are traded each day, your orders end up being routed by computers. It is nice to know, however,
that there will always be someone who is willing to buy or sell shares of your stock.
Why Stocks Are a Good Idea
There are a number of reasons why you should buy stocks. According to researchers, stocks have beaten every other type of investment over any 10-year period during the last 75 years. They are a good
buy even after a market crash or an extended bear market. According to research conducted by Jeremy Siegel, best-selling author of Stocks for the Long Run (McGraw-Hill, 2002), over the long term
stocks gained an annual-ized 8 percent after inflation after the market has fallen by over 40 per-cent or more. (Inflation is the expansion of the money supply. As a result, the price of goods and services go
up, which lowers or erodes the amount you can buy with your money.) In the short term, stocks are riskier than fixed-income assets, but in the long run, says Siegel, stocks outperform every other
According to many experts, stocks have returned an average of 11 percent annually for the last 75 years, handily beating inflation as well as bonds, money market accounts, and savings accounts. In
addition, it’s cheaper to buy stocks over the long term, especially if you buy and hold. And according to the experts, the odds are quite good that the market will continue to go up just as it’s done in the
past (although there are no guarantees).
Risk: The Chance You Take When You Buy Stocks
A lot of people enter the stock market without a clear idea of the risks. (Too many people look up at the stars without looking out for the rocks below.) Let’s be clear: when you invest or trade in the
market, there is a chance that you could lose some or all of your money. It’s even possible to lose more money than you put in. The goal for many investors and traders, therefore, is learning how to
recognize and minimize risk. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t completely eliminate risk, but you can learn to manage it.
There are all kinds of risk. First, the entire stock market could go down in price because of outside events like war, recession, or terrorism. Second, even if the stock market as a whole goes up, there are a
number of reasons why your stock could go down. Third, even if you avoid the stock market and put your money in a savings account (or under your mattress), there is the risk that your money will be
worth less because of inflation. And finally, if you do not invest in the market, there is the risk that you will miss out on some very profitable buying opportunities. Therefore, whether you invest in the
market or not, there will be risks. By the time you finish this book, you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether the risks you take are worth the rewards you’ll make.
The Dow 30 (including ticket symbol)
Alcoa (AA)American Express Co. (AXP)AT&T Corp. (T)Boeing Co. (BA)Caterpillar, Inc. (CAT)Citigroup, Inc. (C)Coca-Cola Co. (KO)DuPont Co. (DD)Eastman Kodak Co. (EK)ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM)General
Electric Co. (GE)General Motors Corp. (GM)Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ)Home Depot (HD)Honeywell International Inc. (HON)Intel Corp. (INTC)International Business Machines Corp. (IBM)International Paper Co. (IP)
J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
McDonald’s Corp. (MCD)Merck & Co. (MRK)Microsoft (MSFT)Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. (MMM)Philip Morris and Co. (MO)Procter & Gamble Co. (PG)SBC Communications (SBC)United
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wasn’t hard, was it?
Usually, people who don’t like a lot of risk tend to buy bonds rather than stocks. With stocks, there is the chance you could lose all your money if the stock goes to zero. Unfortunately, bonds aren’t perfect
either. In fact, there are risks in buying bonds.
For example, there is always the chance that the corporation you lent money to will go bankrupt. This is what happened to the bond-holders of Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, and other corporations.
When you buy a bond, it is given a rating (highly rated AAA bonds are considered the safest). The lower the bond rating, however, the higher the interest you receive. Some bonds are so risky that they are
called junk bonds. For the risk you take when you own lower-rated bonds, you receive an extremely high yield.
Bondholders are very concerned about interest rates. After all, many bondholders live off the interest payments they receive from their bonds. After the market peaked in 2000, the Federal Reserve Sys-tem
(the Fed) lowered interest rates more than 12 times. Existing bondholders were delighted because they had already locked in a favorable yield at a higher interest rate and could resell their bonds for a
higher price. After all, when interest rates fall, the value of the bond goes up.
The inverse relationship between bond prices and interest rates can be confusing. Many people don’t realize that the price you received when your bond was issued rises or falls in the opposite direction
with interest rates (the inverse relationship). For example, let’s say you pur-chased a bond for $1000 with an 8 percent coupon (it pays $80 annu-ally per $1000 of face value). If interest rates drop below 8
percent, your bond will be worth more than $1000 because investors will pay more to receive the higher interest rate on your bond. On the other hand, if interest rates rise, your bond will be worth less than
$1000 because buyers won’t pay you face value for a bond that pays a lower interest rate.
To summarize, the advantage of owning bonds is that you receive a guaranteed interest payment and a promise that your original money (called principal) will be repaid to you in full. Basically, you lend
money to a corporation, and it promises to pay you back in full after a specified period of time. The disadvantage is that the corporation could go out of business, leaving you with nothing. You may be sur-
prised to learn that more people buy bonds than invest in the stock market. Bonds are especially popular with people who are nearing retirement.
If bonds seem confusing, don’t worry; they are. That is why many people prefer to buy bond mutual funds, which are more convenient and easier to understand. Speaking of mutual funds, it’s about time
we learned more about this fascinating investment. It fits in perfectly with our discussion about the stock market.
Mutual Funds: A Popular Alternative to Individual Stocks and Bonds
Instead of investing directly in the stock market, you can buy mutual funds. An investment company creates a mutual fund by pooling investors’ money and using it to invest in an assortment of stocks,
bonds, or cash. In a way, investing in a mutual fund is like hiring your own professional money manager. The best part is that the fund man-ager who manages the mutual fund makes the buying and
selling deci-sions for you. This is ideal for people who don’t have the time or knowledge to research individual companies and determine whether the stock is a good buy at its current price. This is one of
the reasons that mutual funds have become so popular in the last few years.
For a relatively low fee, especially when compared with stock commissions, mutual funds give you instant diversification. For a min-imum investment of $2500, or sometimes less, you can buy a slice of a
whole basket of stocks. (Many mutual fund companies have raised their minimum from as little as $100 to $2500.) If you are interested in mutual funds, you should begin by looking in the financial
section of your local newspaper. There are well over 7000 mutual funds to choose from, each with its own style and strategy.
For example, you could buy a mutual fund that invests in stocks (called a stock fund), technology (a sector fund), or bonds (a bond fund), or one that invests in international stocks (an international fund).
No matter what kind of investment you’re interested in, there is a mutual fund that should meet your needs.
When you find a mutual fund that meets your goals and fits your investment strategy, you send a check to the investment company. Because there are so many mutual funds, you should take as much time
to choose the correct mutual fund as you would take to choose a stock. Keep in mind that although most mutual funds did extremely well dur-ing the 1990s, many have faltered during the last few years.
That’s why it’s important to find a fund that is successful even when the economy is doing poorly.
One of the smartest ways to invest in mutual funds is through a 401(k), a voluntary tax-deferred savings plan that is provided by a number of companies. The popular 401(k) plan is one of the reasons so
many people became involved in the stock market to begin with. The brilliant part of the 401(k) is that you don’t have to pay taxes on the money you earn until you are 591⁄2. If you leave the company
before you’re 591⁄2, you can convert your 401(k) to an IRA, another type of tax-deferred savings plan.
Why People Choose Mutual Funds
The main reason that people choose mutual funds is to allow diversi-fication, which means that instead of investing all of your money in only one stock—a frequently risky move—you are able to buy a
slice of hundreds of stocks. For example, let’s say that most of your money was invested in WorldCom on the day it announced that it had mis-stated its earnings by $3.8 billion. The stock fell by over 90
percent in 1 day! If you had owned this stock directly, you would have lost 90 percent of your money. On the other hand, if you owned a mutual fund that owned WorldCom, you might have lost no more
than 3 percent of your money that day. Now do you see why mutual funds are a good idea for investors?
On the other hand, some people are looking for a whole lot more, which is what brings them to the stock market in the first place. If you owned a mutual fund that contained a stock that went up a lot in
price in 1 day, you might make 1 or 2 percent on your fund that day. But if you owned the stock directly, you could make 10 or 20 percent, or per-haps more, in 1 or 2 days. (I’ve owned stocks that have
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gone up as much as 50 percent in 1 day.)
Net Asset Value
A net asset value (NAV) is similar to a stock price. It technically refers to the value of one share in the mutual fund. You can find NAVs in the financial section of your daily newspaper. The math is very
similar to that for a stock. If you want to buy 100 shares of a mutual fund with an NAV of $10, it will cost you $1000. You’ll also be charged a very small management fee, which is simply subtracted from
You can also look in the newspaper to see how well your mutual fund did during various periods, from yesterday to 3 years ago. The mutual fund corporations have done an excellent job of letting their
shareholders know exactly what their performance records are. If you don’t like a fund’s investment performance, you can always switch to another mutual fund.
If you have never invested in the stock market, you might seriously consider getting your feet wet with mutual funds. You should know that there are two types of funds: no-load and load. In my opinion,
you are better off with a no-load fund (which means that you won’t have to pay extra sales charges for investing in the fund) because it’s cheaper. There is no evidence that load funds are any better than
Cross your fingers, but the highly regulated mutual fund industry has so far avoided the kind of scandals that have beset many of America’s corporations. Although it is possible for you to lose money with
mutual funds, at least you know you are getting a fair shake in the market. It is extremely unlikely that a mutual fund corporation will try to rip you off.
Mutual funds aren’t perfect, of course. Sometimes they go down, almost as much as stocks. During the recent bear market, many mutual funds went down a lot (a few lost as much as 70 percent)—not all
mutual funds, but many of them. Most mutual funds are designed to do well in bull markets and tend to fail miserably during bear markets (although a handful of specialized mutual funds shine in bear
Index Funds: A Popular Alternative to Actively Managed Mutual Funds
The mutual funds I’ve talked about so far are run by fund managers who keep close tabs on how their funds are doing. They will buy or sell stocks in order to make more money for the fund. These fund
managers are actively involved in improving the performance of their mutual fund; that’s why they’re called active managers.
Index funds are run differently. Like other mutual funds, they use money pooled by investors. But unlike other mutual funds, index funds do not have active managers. They simply contain the stocks that
make up one of the various indexes. For example, you could buy the Dow 30 index (DIA), the S&P 500 index (SPY), or the Nasdaq 100 index (QQQ). The idea is that if you can’t beat the indexes, you
might as well join them. Therefore, if the Dow index is having a good year and is up 10 percent, you will get a 10 percent return on your fund.
Index funds are less expensive than other mutual funds because you don’t have to pay an active manager and there are no extra sales charges. For these reasons, index funds have become very popular with
the public. More than 50 percent of portfolio managers have failed to beat the index funds (in some years, the records are even worse), and so index funds are a popular alternative.
Keep in mind that in a bull market, index funds do well. During a lengthy bear market, however, their performance will be terrible. (Bull markets are markets in which the major stock indexes are
consistently going up because investors are buying stocks. On the other hand, bear markets are markets in which the major stock indexes are consistently going down because investors are avoiding or
selling stocks.) Never-theless, the low cost and high performance of index funds have made them attractive to many investors.
During the 1990s, putting your money in cash or a certificate of deposit (CD) seemed like a dumb idea. After all, a CD, offered by most banks and financial institutions, gave you a return of no more than 5
percent a year. At the time, people became giddy when they saw the value of their stocks go up by huge amounts. A 5 percent return on a CD seemed like a bad joke.
The joke backfired, however, when people held their favorite stocks too long. By the year 2001, the market had reversed. Many investors who had held onto their favorite stocks lost nearly everything.
Those 5 percent CDs and an old-fashioned savings account (paying only 1 percent a year) seemed like mighty good ideas. One percent a year isn’t much—in fact, it’s a terrible return—but it’s better than
If you have a preference for cash, you can also put your money in a money market fund, which pays a little more than a bank. (A money mar-ket fund is a mutual fund that invests in such short-term
securities as CDs and commercial paper.) You can also invest directly in U.S. Treasury bills, which offer the advantage of safety because they have the backing of the
U.S. government. (Money market funds aren’t insured.)
Remember when I talked about diversification? By keeping some of your excess cash in a money market account, you are protected from vicious bear markets. In addition, you can use excess cash to buy
your favorite stock or mutual fund. You’ll also learn that it’s nice to have extra cash on the side to pay for emergencies and unexpected expenses. There’s no rule that says that every cent you have should
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be invested in the stock market.
Investing in Real Estate and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
One of the smartest investments you can make is to buy your own home. Not only will you get tax breaks, but over the years the prices of many homes have skyrocketed. (In some parts of the country, the
price of real estate has gone up so high that it reminds people of what hap-pened to the stock market after it peaked in 2000.) Owning a home is usually cheaper than renting, it allows you to build long-
term wealth the old-fashioned way, and, most important, it feels great to be a home-owner.
The biggest negative of owning a home is that real estate is an illiq-uid investment (meaning that you can’t sell it quickly, as you can a stock or mutual fund). The other downside is that you are required to
make monthly mortgage payments. If for some reason you fall behind with your payments, the bank can attempt to take over your home. Also, when you own a home, you have to pay property taxes,
homeowner’s insurance, and interest on the loan. Even with these drawbacks, owning a home is a worthy financial goal, although it’s not for everyone. (For example, renting is simpler and more
convenient for some people. In addition, you could use the money you aren’t spending on the house to invest in the stock market.)
Many people use real estate as an investment. This includes buying a residential property, such as a single-family home, condominium, or townhouse. If all goes according to plan, you can turn around and
sell it for a higher price or rent it out. As with investing in the stock market, you never want to buy real estate until you have done extensive research.
An alternative to buying real estate is to invest in a REIT, a publicly traded company whose stock can be bought and sold on one of the stock exchanges. These companies purchase and manage various
real estate properties. If you don’t want to take the time to buy stocks in these companies, you can always buy REIT mutual funds.
Unlike real estate, the main advantage of REITs is their liquidity. In addition, you can enjoy the benefits of buying and selling real estate without having to do the work. Of course, there is the risk that the
com-pany or fund manager will make poor real estate investments, causing the REIT to go down in price.
Bull, Bear, and Sideways Markets
Sometimes the market goes through a period of months or even years when it keeps going down. That has happened a number of times in the history of the stock market. When the stock market is officially in a
bear market, it means that the major market indexes—the Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500—are declining. People sell their stocks for whatever price they can get. In general, the economy is weak, and corporate
earnings are declining.
A bear market is pretty depressing for Wall Street. People begin to avoid the stock market and put their money in cash, gold, or bonds. On Wall Street, the major brokerages stop hiring or lay off employees. Since
the stock market often predicts what will happen to the economy, a lengthy bear market may signal that a recession is coming. No one can predict how long a bear market will last, although bear markets in the past
have been relatively short.
Bull markets are very profitable for most traders and investors. During a bull market, there are plenty of jobs on Wall Street, and investors are flush with cash that they eagerly use to buy more stocks. Everyone
seems to be in a stock buying mood, and the major indexes have nowhere to go but up. People are optimistic about the direction of the country. Everyone is talking about how much money they made in the market.
In the early 1920s, the bull market was fueled by the increased use of automobiles and elec-tricity. In the great bull market of the 1990s, it was the Internet that drove stock prices higher.
Wall Street dreads a sideways market because it’s hard for anyone to make money in such a market. In a sideways market, the mar-ket indexes attempt to go up or down but end up just about where they started.
People just sit on the sidelines, holding their cash and refusing to participate in the market. For example, the market reached its low 3 years after the 1929 market crash, then went nowhere for the next 10 years. It
took another 12 years for the market to return to its 1929 highs. Another sideways market began in 1966, when the Dow was at 983.51. You had to wait 16 years, until 1982, for the Dow to permanently break 1000
(although it temporarily broke through in 1972 before retreating.) Investors had to endure a number of mini-bear markets during this period.
In the next chapter, you will learn about growth, income, and value stocks, and introduced to penny stocks.
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investors, usually older individuals who are near retirement, are attracted to income stocks because they live off the income in the form of dividends and interest on the stocks and bonds they own. In
addition, stocks that pay a regular dividend are less volatile. They may not rise or fall as quickly as other stocks, which is fine with the conservative investors who tend to buy income stocks. Another
advantage of stocks that pay dividends is that the dividends reduce the loss if the stock price goes down.
There are also a number of disadvantages of buying income stocks. First, dividends are considered taxable income, so you have to report the money you receive to the IRS. Second, if the company doesn’t
raise its dividend each year—and many don’t—inflation can cut into your prof-its. Finally, income stocks can fall just as quickly as other stocks. Just because you own stock in a so-called conservative
company doesn’t mean you will be protected if the stock market falls.
Value stocks are stocks of profitable companies that are selling at a rea-sonable price compared with their true worth, or value. The trick, of course, is determining what a company is really worth—what
investors call its intrinsic value. Some low-priced stocks that seem like bargains are low-priced for a reason.
Value stocks are often those of old-fashioned companies, such as insurance companies and banks, that are likely to increase in price in the future, even if not as quickly as other stocks. It takes a lot of
research to find a company whose price is a bargain compared to its value. Investors who are attracted to value stocks have a number of fun-damental tools (e.g., P/E ratios) that they use to find these
bargain stocks. (I’ll discuss many of these tools in Chapter 9.)
Growth stocks are the stocks of companies that consistently earn a lot of money (usually 15 percent or more per year) and are expected to grow faster than the competition. They are often in high-tech
indus-tries. The price of growth stocks can be very high even if the company’s earnings aren’t spectacular. This is because growth investors believe that the corporation will earn money in the future and
are willing to take the risk.
Most of the time, growth stocks won’t pay a dividend, as the corpo-ration wants to use every cent it earns to improve or grow the business. Because growth stocks are so volatile, they can make sudden
price moves in either direction. This is ideal for short-term traders but unnerv-ing for many investors. During the 1990s, when growth stocks were all the rage, even buy-and-hold investors couldn’t resist
investing in growth companies like Cisco, Sun Microsystems, and Dell Computer.
Dividends: Another Way to Make Money
You already know that many investors are attracted to income stocks because they pay dividends. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how div-idends work.
As mentioned before, a corporation that has made a lot of profits passes some of those profits to shareholders in the form of a payment called a dividend. It is usually given to shareholders in cash (in fact,
by check), or, if desired, it can be used to buy more shares of the stock.
Dividends are a great idea. Not only do you make money as the price of your stock goes up, but you can also receive a bonus from the corporation in the form of a dividend every quarter. Keep in mind
that the corporation’s board of directors is not required to distribute a divi-dend but often does so when the corporation is doing well.
If you own a lot of shares of a stock, perhaps 5000 shares or more, your dividend payments can add up substantially. Let’s say, for exam-ple, that a corporation pays $0.25 per share quarterly dividend on
your 5000 shares, which adds up to $1 in dividends each year. That means that every 3 months you will receive $1250, for a total of $5000 a year. In addition, if the stock you own goes up in price, then
you also make money on the gain (assuming you sell the stock).
People used to talk a lot about dividends, especially investors who were nearing retirement age, because so many investors depended on their dividend checks to live. Some people will buy only stocks that
pay hefty dividends. The corporations that traditionally paid dividends were the large blue-chip companies that are included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (in the game of poker, blue chips are the
most valu-able). Corporations of these types tended to attract older investors who were more interested in the dividends than in the stock price.
Unfortunately, a lot of corporations, even the blue chips, have low-ered or eliminated their dividends. In the go-go 1990s, corporations wanted to use every cent they had to enlarge or improve their
business and weren’t willing to give some of that money back to their share-holders. Technology corporations in particular weren’t in the habit of paying dividends. You can easily find out the amount of
the dividend, if any, that a corporation pays by looking in the newspaper.
Just as their name suggests, penny stocks are stocks that usually sell for less than a dollar a share (although some people define a penny stock as one selling for less than $5 a share). Because the stocks of
these small corporations usually don’t meet the minimum requirements for listing on a major stock exchange, they trade in the over-the-counter market (OTC) on the Nasdaq. They are also called pink
sheet stocks because at one time the names and prices of these stocks were printed on pink paper. (To check the prices of unlisted OTC stocks, try the Web site www.otcbb.com.)
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The advantage of trading penny stocks is that the share price is so low that almost everyone can afford to buy shares. For example, with only $1000 you can buy 2000 shares of a $0.50 penny stock. If the
stock ever makes it to a dollar, you made a 100 percent profit. That is the beauty of penny stocks. On the other hand, you could put your order in at $0.75 a share, and a couple of days later the stock could
fall to $0.50. It happens all the time. A number of traders specialize in these stocks, although this is not easy.
After all, penny stocks are so cheap for a reason. That reason could be poor management, no earnings, or too much debt, but whatever it is, there usually aren’t enough buyers to make the stock go higher.
Even with their low price, the trading volume on penny stocks is exception-ally low. (For example, a stock like Microsoft will trade millions of shares per day, whereas a penny stock might trade 10,000
shares, or sometimes even less.)
With a low-volume stock, it’s easy for someone to manipulate the price. Manipulation? Yes, it happens, especially with penny stocks. If you have a $1 stock that is trading only 25,000 shares a day, when
someone comes in to buy 10,000 shares, that trade is likely to affect the price. (That’s also why some people prefer trading penny stocks.)
Because of their low volume, penny stocks are also the favorite investment of unethical people who work in boiler rooms. A boiler room is an operation that hires a team of people to make phone calls to
people they don’t know in order to convince them to buy a nearly worthless stock. As the stock price goes up (because people are urged to buy the stock), the workers (the insiders) in the boiler room sell
their shares for a substantial gain. By the time you want to sell, it is often too late. More than likely, you’ll lose most or all of your investment.
A bit of advice: If a cold-calling salesperson begs you to buy a penny stock, just hang up. “Hey, buddy, the stock is only $0.10 a share. For $1000, you can buy 10,000 shares. If the stock goes to a dollar,
you could make $10,000. How does that sound? So can I count on you for 10,000 shares? Trust me, this stock is hot.”
It is reported that thousands of people fall for this scam every sin-gle day. The boiler room brokers are skilled at making you feel that you are going to miss out on the deal of a lifetime if you don’t buy in
the next 10 minutes. In reality, it’s unlikely that the penny stock will ever claw its way out of the basement. (An entertaining movie called Boiler Room described some of the tactics used to convince
unsuspecting investors to buy penny stocks.)
Like anything connected to the stock market, exceptions can be found. There are a number of once high-flying companies that trade for less than a dollar. Because of these companies’ history and book
value (how much the company is worth), they are generally better buys than unknown penny stocks with no price history and negative earnings. However, it is essential that you do your homework before
you pur-chase your first penny stock.
The SEC: Protecting Investors against Fraud
You may wonder whether there is a government organization that protects the needs and interests of the individual investor. Actu-ally, there is. Congress created the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC) in 1934 to regulate the securities industry after the disastrous 1929 crash. The SEC is something like the police officer for the investment industry. It sets the rules and regulations and standards that Wall
Street must follow. The pur-pose of the SEC (paid for by your tax dollars) is to protect indi-vidual investors against fraud and to make sure the markets are run fairly and honestly. Its Web site, www.sec.gov,
contains help-ful articles and resources about the SEC’s mission and about individual companies. It’s worth mentioning that knowledge is your best weapon against fraud, and the SEC does its best to keep you
informed. It will also make life miserable for anyone it catches breaking the securities laws.
Unfortunately, not everyone wants a government organiza-tion like the SEC breathing down the necks of corporations. Although Congress created the SEC, there are powerful people with special interests who
want to keep the SEC as weak as pos-sible. To make sure that the SEC is ineffective, some politicians see to it that the SEC doesn’t have the funds or resources it needs to go after companies that break securities
A weak SEC is nothing but an invitation to corporate crooks to use the stock market to finance their illegal trading activities. It may take a market crash or some other financial disaster before the SEC gets the tools
it needs to rid the market of crooks. As an individual investor or trader, however, it pays to know your rights (and what is allowed by law), especially if you are a victim of fraud by anyone connected with the
In the next chapter, you will learn about all the things that people do with stocks, including other ways to classify stocks.
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Asset Allocation: Deciding How Much Money to Allot to Each Investment
Once you have diversified, you have to decide what percentage of your money you want to allocate (or distribute) to each investment. For example, if you are 30 years away from retirement, you might
invest 65 percent in individual stocks and stock mutual funds and 25 percent in bonds, and keep 10 percent in cash. This is asset allocation.
As with diversification, the correct asset allocation depends on your age, your risk tolerance, and when you’ll need the money. In the old days, you were told to subtract your age from 100 to determine the
percentage to put into stocks. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Once again, it is a good idea to seek professional help in determining the ideal asset allocation for yourself.
In a real-life example, one 80-year-old man I know had 90 percent of his portfolio in only two stocks, Lucent and Cisco Systems. When these stocks plummeted, his two-stock portfolio was ruined. Now
he’s worried that he won’t have enough money to survive, and he’s right. The goal for this man is to protect his original investment. On the other hand, I have a 21-year-old friend who is putting much of
her money in stocks and stock mutual funds, and she can afford to do so because her time horizon is so much longer.
Compounding: Creating Earnings on Your Earnings
There is something you can do with stocks that can make you rich, according to the mathematicians who dream up this stuff. The idea behind compounding is the reason that people began to buy and hold
stocks in the first place. Compounding works like this: You reinvest any money you make on your savings or investments: interest, dividends, or capital gains. The longer you keep reinvesting your
earnings, the more money you’ll make.
For example, if you invest $100 and it grows by 10 percent in one year, at the end of the year you’ll have a total of $110. If you leave the money alone, you’ll have $121 by the end of the next year. The
extra $11 is called compound earnings, or the earnings that are earned on earnings. The more your investment is earning, the faster the com-pounding. The advocates of compounding remind you to invest
early if you want to have more money later.
Compounding is a neat accounting maneuver that can make you rich if you live long enough to see it work. The idea is that as the stock you own goes up, it compounds in value, bringing you even greater
prof-its. The longer you leave your money in a stock, the more it compounds over time. John Bogle, ex-chairman of the mutual fund company Van-guard, called compounding “the greatest mathematical
discovery of all time for the investor seeking maximum reward.”
The only problem with compounding formulas is that they make assumptions that may not occur in real life. Compounding works like a charm as long as your stock goes up in price. The problem with the
stock market (and compounding) is that there are no guarantees that your stock will go up in price or that you’ll make 8 percent or more a year in the market.
The Stock Split: Convincing People to Buy Your Stock
When a corporation announces a 2-for-1 stock split, this simply means that the price of the stock is cut in half but the number of shares you own is doubled. For example, let’s say you own 100 shares of
IBM at $80. If IBM announces a 2-for-1 stock split, the price of IBM would be cut in half, to $40 a share. Now, instead of owning 100 shares of IBM, you’d own 200 shares. From a mathematical
perspective, nothing has changed at all. You own twice as many shares, but since the price of the stock is reduced by half, the value of your investment is exactly the same. (You can also have a 3-for-1 or
4-for-1 stock split.)
A stock split is often done for psychological reasons more than anything else. In this example, the price of IBM has dropped from $80 to $40 a share. Investors who are primarily focused on price might
con-sider the $40 price a bargain, something like a half-off sale. In reality, a stock split doesn’t change the corporation’s financial condition at all. Instead, the biggest advantage of a stock split is that it
may lure more investors—those who felt that they couldn’t afford to buy IBM at $80. During the bull market, after a company announced a stock split, the stock price often went up.
Nevertheless, there are practical reasons for a company to split its stock. For example, do you know what would happen if a corpo-ration never split its stock? Think about Berkshire Hathaway, Warren
Buffett’s corporation. As I write this book, his stock is trading at $70,000 a share. That is not a typo! Most people couldn’t afford even one share of stock at that price. So from a practical standpoint, stock
splits do make sense for corporations. They do nothing to increase the value of the corporation, however. Splitting the stock is purely an accounting (or marketing!) procedure designed to make a stock
more enticing to investors.
Some companies with low stock prices have used another type of maneuver, the reverse split, to artificially pump up the price of their stock so that they aren’t delisted from a stock exchange. For example,
if a stock is trading for $1 a share, after a 1-for-5 reverse split, the price will rise to $5 a share. Just as with the regular stock split, fundamentally nothing has changed in the company. If you are a
shareholder, the value of your shares remains the same, but you now own fewer shares. (Let’s say you own 100 shares of a $1 stock. After a 1-for-5 reverse split, the stock rises to $5, but the 100 shares
you own are reduced to 20 shares. From an accounting standpoint, you still own $100 worth of stock.) The bad news about reverse splits is that most of the time the higher stock price doesn’t last. Before
long, the stock may return to $1 a share.
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Selling Short: Profiting from a Falling Stock
When you invest in a stock hoping that it will rise in price, you are said to be “long” the stock. Your goal is to buy low and sell high. Your profit is the difference between the price at which you bought the
stock and your selling price. On the other hand, if you hope that a stock will go down in price, you are said to be “short” the stock. When you short a stock, you first sell the stock, hoping to buy it back at a
lower price. Your profit is the difference between the price at which you sold the stock and the price at which you bought it back. If you’ve never shorted stocks, it sounds strange until you do it a few
Imagine making money when a stock goes down in price! For many people, it sounds almost un-American or unethical to profit from a falling stock. In reality, you’re in the market for only one reason: to
make money. It doesn’t matter whether you go long or short as long as you make profits. It’s neither un-American nor unethical to short stocks. It’s a sophisticated strategy that allows you to profit even
during dismal economic conditions.
For example, let’s say you are watching Bright Light, and you believe that over the next month it will go down in price. Perhaps there is negative news about the industry, or perhaps you notice that the
com-pany has a lot of debt. You account and decide to short 100 shares of Bright Light at the current market price of $20 a share, so you call your brokerage firm or use your online account. When you
place the order, the brokerage firm will lend you 100 shares of Bright Light (since you don’t own it). Let’s say Bright Light falls to $18 a share. You now buy back the shares that you borrowed for a 2-
There are a few rules that you must follow in order to short stocks. First, you must buy when the stock is temporarily rising, which is called an uptick. If a stock is falling quickly and buyers have aban-
doned it, you may not be allowed to short it. You have to wait for the next uptick, when buyers have taken a position on the stock, a techni-cal rule that prevents short sellers from piling onto a losing
stock. Another rule is that you can’t short a stock whose price is less than $5 a share.
Although selling short sounds like an easy strategy, a lot of things can go wrong. First, when you go long a stock, the most you can lose is everything you invested. I know, that’s pretty bad. On the other
hand, when you short a stock, you can lose more than you invested, which is why shorting can be risky. Let’s see how this works.
If you sell short 100 shares of Bright Light at $20 a share, you receive $2000. If Bright Light drops to $18 a share, you made 2 points, or a $200 profit. Let’s say you are wrong and Bright Light goes
higher. For every point Bright Light goes up, you lose $100. How high can Bright Light rise? The answer is frightening: infinitely! The problem with shorting is that if the stock goes up, not down, your
losses are incalculable.
I knew a group of guys who shorted Yahoo! in 1997 when it reached $90 a share. They were convinced that Yahoo! was overpriced. Perhaps they were technically correct, but that didn’t stop the stock
from soaring to as high as $400 one year later. (It actually went over $1000 in 1999, or a split-adjusted price of $445.) These guys were forced to buy back the shares early, losing over 100 points, because
the losses grew so large. A few years later, after the market came to its senses, Yahoo! dropped to less than $20 a share (adjusted for splits), but it was too late for my acquaintances.
Personally, I find it very enlightening to listen to short sellers. Too often, investors delude themselves into thinking that the market will always go higher. Professional short sellers are good at poking holes
in the “too-good-to-be-true” proclamations of market bulls. In my opin-ion, you should listen to both sides of an argument, but in the end you should do what you think makes the most sense.
Other Ways to Classify Stocks
As you remember, corporations issue shares of stock, which are made available to investors through a stock exchange. The total number of shares that a corporation has issued is called its outstanding
shares. (I agree it’s not the most exciting name.) In a real-life example, you might ask someone in the corporation, “What is the number of outstanding shares?”
To save yourself time, you could also look up the number of out-standing shares on the Internet—for example, at Yahoo! Finance. Keep in mind that the bigger the corporation, the more outstanding shares
there are. Because the stock market goes up and down based on supply and demand, a corporation doesn’t want to issue too many shares unless it is pretty sure that people will scoop them up.
Let’s say that over a 10-year period, Microsoft issues a total of 1 bil-lion shares to the public and to corporate insiders; therefore, the number of outstanding shares for Microsoft is 1 billion shares. (It is up
to the board of directors of Microsoft to decide how many shares it wants to issue.) Obviously, the board keeps millions of shares of the stock for the company’s officers and employees. Because they are
company insiders, they got the shares at extremely low prices, perhaps for a few dollars a share. (This is one of the reasons that so many people who worked at Microsoft became millionaires.) In addition,
the board of directors also sets aside millions of shares to be used for equipment, computers, and research and development.
The total number of shares issued by the corporation is called the out-standing shares. Can you guess what the shares are called when we refer only to those owned by outside investors like you and me?
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Those shares are called the float.
I’ll explain this as simply as possible. Let’s say a corporation has a total of 5 million outstanding shares. Of those 5 million shares, corpo-rate insiders hold 3 million. The question of the day: How many
shares have been allocated to outside investors to be actively traded? If you guessed 2 million shares, you’re right. The float is 2 million shares. These are the shares that are traded every day on the stock
exchange by investors and traders.
Why Outstanding Shares and Float Are Important
Although some people don’t care how many shares are outstanding or what the float is, others think this information is extremely important. Why? Keep in mind that the market is all about supply and
demand. If you know how many shares are outstanding and what the float is, you can calculate whether there is too little supply and too much demand (the stock will go up in price) or too much supply
and not enough demand (the stock price will go down). Also, it’s a good idea for new investors to become familiar with market vocabulary.
Another way to classify stocks is by size. The market capitalization (market cap) of a stock tells you how large the corporation is. (To cal-culate market cap, you multiply the number of outstanding shares
by the current stock price. Therefore, the market cap of a stock varies depending on both the number of outstanding shares and the stock price. For example, a large corporation with 10 billion outstanding
shares and a stock price of $50 has a market cap of $500 billion.)
Some people will invest only in large-cap stocks (those of large corporations worth more than $5 billion), which include the stocks of corporations like Coca-Cola, Alcoa, and Johnson & Johnson, because
they feel that the stocks of these corporations are safer and the corpo-rations will never go bankrupt. (This isn’t always true, however, since the fifth largest company in the country, Enron Corporation,
filed for bankruptcy in 2002.) Other investors are attracted to mid-cap stocks (those of medium-sized corporations worth between $1 and $5 billion), while still others invest in small-cap or microcap
stocks (those of small corporations worth between $250 million and $1 billion) because they cost less and their price often moves quickly.
When you compare the stock price to the market cap, you can see how difficult it is for large-cap stocks to double or triple. For example, let’s say you own shares in a $50 large-cap stock of a company
with a market cap of $500 billion. In order for the stock price to double, the company would have to increase in value from $500 billion to $1 tril-lion—not impossible, but extremely difficult and time-
consuming. One reason some investors prefer small-cap stocks is that there is a better chance that they will double or triple. On the other hand, the smaller the stock’s market cap, the higher the risk.
Stocks that are being sold to the public for the first time are called initial public offerings, or IPOs. (Wall Street refers to this process as “going public.”) The IPO is an exciting time for the corporation. The biggest
advantage of going public for a com-pany is that it allows the company to raise money. It can use this money to expand, to pay off debt, or to pay for research and development of a new product. In addition, if the
IPO is success-ful, it can make company insiders extremely rich. There are two types of IPOs, the start-up (a company that never existed before) and the private company that decides to go public.
The corporation will appoint a major Wall Street stock bro-kerage firm (identified as the lead underwriter) to manage the IPO process and bring the stock to market. Investment bankers who work for the brokerage
firm will determine how many shares of stock to issue to the public and what price to set.
Before the company goes public, early investors are given a chance to buy the stock at cut-rate prices. For example, corporate insiders could get thousands of shares of the stock for a dollar. Meanwhile, investment
bankers will work with the underwriters to try to create investor interest in the corporation. Once the com-pany goes public, research analysts that work for the underwriter may issue buy recommendations on the
stock and make positive comments about the corporation.
We all saw the power of the Internet stocks when Netscape went public in April 1995. The lead underwriter, a major New York brokerage firm, calculated that the stock would be worth $28 a share. Minutes after
the stock opened for the day, it rose to $75 a share, a price move that surprised many on Wall Street (although in later years some Internet IPOs rose by even more— for example, in 1998 TheGlobe.com went from
$9 to $87 in one day, and in 1999, an IPO called VA Linux jumped 700 percent in one day, opening at $30 and rising to a high of $299). For the next 5 years, any stock that had anything to do with the Internet was
given a robust reception by Wall Street. The demand for these Internet stocks was nothing short of phenomenal.
Like all good things, however, the fun ended after a few years. Most of the Internet stocks made a round trip back to their original price, and many went out of business. For example, a few years after its IPO, VA
Linux was trading for less than $5, and TheGlobe.com was recently at less than a dollar. In addition, many of those who bought Internet IPOs on the first day lost thousands of dollars because they bought too high.
As an individual investor without inside connections, it is probably best if you avoid buying IPOs. More than likely, you will end up buying at the top and be forced to sell at a loss. Although some traders made
small fortunes on IPOs on the way up, the IPO game is difficult to win, unless you are a company insider and buy early shares.
If you do want to participate in an IPO, however, be sure you read the prospectus, a legally binding document filed with the SEC, that includes the company’s future plans as well as its cur-rent financial condition.
To cover themselves, startup companies will mention, often in small print, that there are no guarantees the company will succeed and there are tremendous risks. After reading all the risks, you may decide not to
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Internet. There are hundreds of financial sites that provide real-time quotes.
As you can see in Figure 5-1, each stock has it own ticker symbol. (In addition to stocks, mutual funds, index funds, bonds, and options have ticker symbols.) Some are easy; for example, the stock symbol
for IBM is IBM. The symbol for Microsoft is MSFT, that for AT&T is T, that for General Electric is GE, and that for Cisco Systems is CSCO. If you aren’t sure of the exact ticker symbol, type in the
name of the com-pany, and the computer will give you the ticker symbol in seconds.
Most people refer to a stock by its symbol rather than its full name. Every experienced investor has memorized the ticker symbols for the most popular stocks. You can tell what exchange the stock is listed
on by counting the number of letters in the symbol. If the stock is on the Nasdaq, the symbol will have 4 or 5 letters. If the stock is on the NYSE, it will have 1, 2, or 3 letters.
Detailed Stock Quote
Let’s take a look at a detailed stock quote for Cisco Systems (CSCO), shown in Figure 5-2.
Views: Basic - DayWatch - Performance - Real-time Mkt - Detailed - [Create New View] CISCO SYSTEMS (NasdaqNM:CSCO) - Trade: Choose Brokerage
Last Trade Change Prev Cls Open Volume 9:49am–15.06 +0.23 (+1.55%) 14.83 15.12 6,103,711
Day’s Range Bid Ask P/E Mkt Cap Avg Vol 14.96–15.19 15.05 15.07 40.08 108.8B 81,647,045
52-wk Range Bid Size Ask Size P/S Div/Shr Div Date 8.12–21.92 22,300 10,400 5.55 0.00 22-Mar-00
1y Target Est EPS (ttm) EPS Est PEG Yield Ex-Div
15.34 0.37 0.54 1.27 N/A 23-Mar-00
Chart, Financials, Historical Prices, Industry, Insider, Messages,News Options, Profile, Reports, Research, SEC Filings, more . . .
Bid: This is the price you will receive if you want to sell the stock. Ask: This is the price you will pay if you want to buy the stock. Previous Close: The stock closed at this price on the previous day.
When you look at the detailed stock quote in Figure 5-2, you will see two stock prices, one higher than the other. These are the bid price and the ask price. The bid and ask prices are extremely important
but also confusing (at least they were to me).
The lower price (the one on the left) is the bid price (or offer price), which is the price you will receive if you own the stock and want to sell it. In Figure 5-2, the bid price for Cisco is $15.05. The higher
price (on the right) is the ask price, the price you will have to pay if you want to buy this stock. The ask price for Cisco is $15.07.
The difference between the bid and ask prices is called the spread. In Figure5-2,thedifferencebetweenthebidprice($15.05)andtheaskprice ($15.07) is 0.02. A few years ago, when stock quotes were in
fractions, the spread on some stocks was very high, sometimes as much as a dollar.
When the spreads were very wide, if you bought a stock and then sold it quickly, you would immediately lose money on the spread. The lower the spread, the better for investors. Because of
decimalization (instead of displaying stock quotes in fractions, the exchanges now dis-play them in decimals), the spread between the bid and ask prices is often quite small, sometimes only a penny or
two. That makes it fairer for investors.
Other important information is how much the stock has risen or fallen in both absolute and percentage terms during the day. In Figure 5-2, Cisco is up 0.23, or 1.55 percent. Many people also look at the
52-week lows and highs to get an idea of where the stock price has been in the past.
The detailed stock quote also gives the market capitalization, the outstanding shares, how much dividend the company pays (if any), and the volume. (In the detailed stock quote example, note that you can
do a historical price search as well as do extensive research on any stock or mutual fund.) You can learn a lot by studying the detailed stock quote.
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Keep in mind that the detailed stock quote is just a quick snapshot of what is happening with the stock. Although these numbers can be use-ful, if you want to really get to know a stock, you’ll have to dig
deeper, as you’ll learn as you read the rest of the book. A lot of people don’t real-ize that the stock price is just one small piece of information you need to know about a stock. Some claim that it’s the least
Too many people believe that the stock price determines whether a stock is a bargain or not. What many people don’t realize is that a stock selling for $50 can be a better value than a stock selling for $10.
If the $10 stock has little or no earnings and loads of debt, you’d be better off buying fewer shares of the $50 stock rather than more shares of the $10 stock. (Warren Buffett once said, “It’s far better to
buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.”) That’s why some investors spend so much time looking at ratios like the P/E (when you divide a stock price by its
earnings per share, you end up with a P/E, or price/earnings, ratio) to determine what is a fair price.
After all, you don’t want to be the kind of person who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde).
Making Money 24 Hours a Day
During the bull market, a lot of people, myself included, thought that people would flock to the after-hours market. We figured that people who couldn’t trade during the day would be eager to trade at night. As the
markets fell, so did interest in after-hours trading. In the middle of the bull market, online and traditional brokerage houses were aggressively offering clients the ability to trade at any time of the day or night. But
as the market plum-meted and investors lost money, the after-hours market fizzled out. Although professional traders continue to trade at night, only a handful of investors still participate in the after-hours market.
(The after-hours market also includes the premarket, which usu-ally begins around 8:00 a.m. EST.)
After-hourstradingworkslikethis:Themajorstockexchanges remain open for electronic trading through electronic communica-tion networks (ECNs) so that investors can trade outside of regular hours.
Only a few million shares are traded in the after-hours mar-ket, unlike the regular market, where billions of shares are traded during the day. In fact, the volume is so small that most investors would be well advised
to avoid night trading altogether (unless you take the time to thoroughly understand how it works). The low volume can cause strange things to happen to stock prices. If you are unfamiliar with after-hours trading,
you can end up buy-ing or selling a stock for a terrible price. Trading after hours is a tricky strategy, and my advice is to do most of your investing and trading during the regular market.
In the next chapter, you will learn how to buy and sell stock.
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Where to Buy Stocks
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Before people traded stocks on the Internet, they could save money by going to discount brokerages. Discount brokerages were geared toward the do-it-yourself investor who wanted low commissions. In
return for low commissions, these brokers provided minimal advice and little research.
The Internet, however, changed Wall Street forever. Discount bro-kers were the first to connect their customers to the Internet. For extremely low commissions, people could trade stocks from the com-fort
of their own homes via the Internet without first contacting a stock-broker. Although there are still discount and deep discount brokers, as far as many people are concerned, they are all online brokerages.
Online investing or online trading simply means that you buy and sell online from your own computer. When you open an account with an online firm, you will not receive investment advice. That’s the
price you pay for commissions that are sometimes less than $10 a trade. Because of increased competition, online brokers will give you instant quotes, stock charts, and interactive research. You can open
an online account with an online trading brokerage for as little as a few hundred dollars.
The downside to opening an account with an online brokerage is that some people desperately need investment advice. (Many people thought it was easy to make money online, and it was—until the
recent bull market ended.) If you’re looking for advice, or you have a huge portfolio, an online broker might not be right for you.
What Happens after You Open a Brokerage Account?
The retail brokerage firm or online brokerage sends you an enrollment packet with forms to fill out. After you send the firm a check or money order, it usually puts your money into a money market
account, which is similar to a savings account. It usually takes about 10 days for your account to become active.
The Types of Orders You Can Place with a Brokerage Firm
Before you buy your first stock, you need to know what kind of order to place. It is essential that you learn the vocabulary so that you’ll be able to communicate with your stock brokerage.
Market Order: Fast Fills but Not the Best Price
The fastest and easiest type of order is a market order. It is also the most common. Let’s say we look up the stock quote on Bright Light (BRLT) and see that it is trading at $20 by $20.25. To refresh your
memory, if you wanted to buy Bright Light, the current market price is $20.25, which is how much you would have to pay if you wanted to buy it right now. You don’t like that price? Don’t worry—it will
change in a second. (It’s kind of like Chicago weather.)
When you pay the market price for a stock, it is filled fast. Why? Because the people selling it to you know that the price they’re giving you is the best price for them. It’s kind of like buying a car and
paying the list price. If you want the stock quickly, you pay the market price. Just remember that you are paying a little bit more for the speed.
Let’s take a closer look at the other kinds of orders you can place.
Limit Order: Slower Fills at Competitive Prices
There is another type of order that is a little more complicated but that allows you to negotiate a better price—the limit order. The advantage of a limit order is that you can decide for yourself the price at
which you want to buy or sell the stock. The disadvantage is that a limit order often takes more time to fill. In fact, it may never be filled, especially if the price you picked is too low or too high.
Here’s how the limit order works: Let’s say Bright Light is trading at $20 a share and you want to buy it, but you feel you could get it for a better price. Instead of buying it at the market price, $20, you put
an order in to buy it at a limit price of $19. If Bright Light ever falls to $19, then the order will be initiated and filled at the current market price. If the stock never makes it to $19, then your order won’t be
You have a couple of choices when you enter a limit order. For example, let’s say you place a limit order to buy 100 shares of Bright Light at $19 a share (even though it’s selling for $20 a share). At this
time, you must specify whether the order is good for the day only (day order) or good until you cancel the order (good-till-canceled order, or GTC). If you select good-till-canceled, you can go about your
business and not worry about the order until it’s filled one day in the future. With a day order, if the brokerage can’t fill your order that day, it will be automatically canceled at the end of the day.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, no matter where you put your limit order, you never seem to get it filled at the most competitive price. Nev-ertheless, the limit order gives you a lot more flexibility. If you
really want to shop around, you can put in limit orders for almost any price you want. For example, you could put in a low-ball offer at 10 points below the current stock price. (If your order does get filled,
however, there’s nothing to stop the stock from going even lower.)
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Stop-Loss Order: Protecting You from Financial Disaster
As the name implies, the purpose of a stop-loss order is to protect your profits (if the stock is a winner) or to cut your losses (if the stock is a loser). A stop-loss order instructs your brokerage to sell the
stock at a price that you specify. In real life, it works like this: Let’s say you buy Bright Light at $20 a share. At the time you buy the stock, you place a stop-loss order at $18 a share. This means that if
Bright Light drops to $18 a share, the brokerage will automatically sell your shares, and your loss is limited to approximately 10 percent. (The order is guaranteed to be executed, but there is no guarantee
that it will be at the exact price you want.)
Many people don’t believe in stop-loss orders. They think that if a stock falls in price, this is a good opportunity to buy, not to sell. One well-known fund manager said that stop-loss orders can chip away
at your portfolio—like death by a thousand cuts.
The stop-loss order isn’t perfect, of course. In volatile markets, for example, your stop-loss order can be filled inadvertently. Here’s what can happen: You set up a stop loss at $18 a share (using Bright
Light as an example). A couple of hours later, Bright Light drops to $18, and the stop loss is triggered. At first, you’re relieved because you sold before the stock fell any further. Unfortunately, after being
down as much as 10 percent, Bright Light rallies to $22 a share, but you have already sold for a loss.
Some people solve this problem by using a “mental” stop loss (some people write it on paper). Unfortunately, most investors do not have the discipline to sell a stock when it hits the target price. They
freeze in fear when their beloved stocks fall by dozens of points, or they convince themselves that the lower price is only temporary. Others won’t get rid of their losing stocks because “they are too cheap
The bottom line: Before you buy a stock, think in advance about when you’ll sell it in case you are wrong. A stop-loss order is like an insurance policy that you use when the unexpected happens. It can
help to prevent you from losing everything. (At some brokerages, you can place a trailing stop order that rises as the stock price goes up.)
You can also place a stop limit order, which is similar to a stop-loss order except that after the specified price is hit, the order becomes a limit order instead of a market order. With a stop limit order, you
enter two prices: the stop price and the limit price. I know this sounds con-fusing, but it becomes clear after a few weeks of practice.
Placing Your First Order
Ready to have some fun? Let’s say you have filled out the necessary paperwork and opened an account with an online broker. Your begin-ning balance is $2500, which is sitting safely in a money market
account. You are now at your computer, and you want to buy 100 shares of Bright Light at the market price. Fortunately, online brokers have made it very easy to buy and sell stocks. If you have a
stockbroker, you call the stockbroker on the phone (most brokerages also allow you to enter the order on their Web site) to place your order.
If you have an online broker, you follow the on-screen instructions. Begin by typing the symbol for Bright Light (BRLT), type 100 shares, and select market order. (Be sure you don’t make any mistakes.)
After you press the Enter key, the computer does the rest. A lot of what then happens to your order depends on the stock you pick.
A minute ago, Bright Light was trading at $20.25. Now it’s at $21.00. Because you placed a market order, it is immediately filled. The brokerage firm automatically transfers $2100 from your money
market account to buy 100 shares of Bright Light for $21.00 a share. The brokerage also deducts a commission of $9.99. Congratulations! You are now a Bright Light shareholder.
If Bright Light goes up a point, you have what we call a paper gain of $100. Not a bad way to make a living, is it? Now you can go to the beach or to work and watch your money make money. Instead of
your working for your money, your money is working for you.
Order Routing: How Your Order Is Sent
As mentioned earlier, if you chose to buy a NYSE stock, the order is routed to a specialist on the exchange, who fills your order electroni-cally. If you buy a Nasdaq stock, a market maker will also handle
the order electronically. More than likely, no matter which stock you choose, your order will be routed to an ECN (electronic communica-tion network), where it will be matched electronically.
As an investor (not a day trader), you care only that your order is executed quickly and for a reasonable price. Some online brokers who cater to day traders offer “price improvement,” which means that
their software will find the most competitive price. There is also special trad-ing software that allows you to specify who will handle your orders. This software, called Level II, allows you to see the names
of all mar-ket makers, specialists, and ECNs. Then you can pick the most com-petitive price.
Unless you are an experienced trader or the software is provided for free, there’s little reason to install Level II software. In most cases, your online broker will route your order to an ECN, where it will be
handled as efficiently as possible. The best time to evaluate how quickly your broker handles your orders is during a fast-moving mar-ket. The best brokers are efficient under all market conditions.
Note: The best time to place an order is after 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. The reason is that professional traders and institutional investors often use their own money to force prices in the direction they want
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them to go. Often, the market moves aggressively in one direction, only to reverse course an hour later. In general, if you are new to the stock market, avoid placing orders in the middle of the night or
during the first half-hour and the last half-hour.
If You Don’t Have the Money
When a brokerage firm lends you money to buy stocks, it’s called “going on margin.” Margin simply means that you are borrowing money from the brokerage firm so that you can buy additional shares of
the same stock.
Usually, the brokerage will give you a 2-to-1 margin rate. For exam-ple, if you pay the brokerage $2000 to buy shares of Bright Light, the brokerage will lend you an additional $2000, allowing you to use
a total of $4000 to buy shares of Bright Light. You will be charged interest on the extra $2000 that you borrowed at current interest rates.
The advantage of margin is that you are using other people’s money (called leveraging) to make more money. This works great if your stock goes up in price. On the other hand, if your stock loses money,
not only do you lose some or all of your original investment (which is painful enough), but you’ll still owe all the money that you borrowed. In the stock market, stocks go down faster than they go up, so
margin can be extremely dangerous.
In the 1920s, margin requirements were as low as 10-to-1, so if you had only $1000 to invest, the brokerage would lend you an additional $9,000. One of the reasons the market crashed in 1929 was
because of margin. As the stock market fell, people who had bought stocks on margin didn’t have the money to pay back what they had borrowed. That’s when banks and brokerages stepped in to take
possession of peo-ple’s savings accounts, houses, and anything else they could get their hands on.
In 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Securi-ties and Exchange Commission (SEC), the government agency charged with making sure that the stock market is run fairly and protecting
investors. One of the rules the SEC agreed on was an increase in mar-gin requirements.
If your stocks fall a lot while you are on margin, you might get the dreaded margin call. The brokerage will call you demanding that you provide more cash. If you don’t move fast enough, the brokerage
has the right to sell the stock until the margin percentage is at the proper levels (usually 30 percent or more). During the recent bear market, it is estimated that thousands of people were forced to liquidate
their stocks because they couldn’t come up with enough cash to support their margin accounts.
Most people don’t have the discipline to handle margin correctly, which is why I think you should avoid it. In my opinion, margin is a dangerous tactic that is best left to professional traders. Invest what
you can afford without borrowing from the brokerage to pump up your returns. If the only way you can invest in the market is with margin, you are gambling, not investing. You’ll know what I mean after
you receive your first margin call.
Electronic Communication Networks
Electronic Communication Networks (ECNs) are networks of computers that work behind the scenes to match buy and sell orders electronically. ECNs work in conjunction with the various stock
exchanges to process your order faster, more efficiently (since there is no human interaction), and more cheaply. When ECNs were first introduced, they revolutionized the way stocks were traded and
helped to lower commissions.
For a small fixed fee of pennies per share, the ECN acts as an elec-tronic middleman. By going directly through an ECN, investors and traders avoid many of the financial games played by market makers
and specialists. Although what happens to your order behind the scenes can be fascinating, most people are hardly aware that ECNs exist. As long as their order is filled quickly and cheaply, most investors
don’t care what happens to it.
The 1929 Stock Market Crash
“Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it,” warned philosopher George Santayana. There is no more glaring example than the 1929 stock market crash, which in some ways was eerily
similar to the boom and bust cycle that the stock market went through beginning in March 2000.
It wasn’t the Internet that fascinated the nation and helped usher in the roaring 1920s, it was electricity. At the same time, many people became enamored with the stock market. With very favorable margin rates
(you could borrow 9 times the amount of your original investment), it seemed as if everyone was in the stock market. As more and more people entered the market, the prices of stocks went up. (In a way, it was
like a huge Ponzi scheme. People paid off what they owed on their original invest-ment with the paper profits they made on their rising stocks.)
The attitude of the Coolidge administration was laissez-faire, a French term meaning “letting things be.” The government wanted to let the forces of capitalism work without interference. As the stock market got
shakier and the economy got worse, the new president, Herbert Hoover, realized that something had to be done. The goal was to increase margin requirements (which many considered the main culprit) without
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causing panic. Unfor-tunately, the market panicked.
After a series of frightening stops and starts, the market finally crashed on October 24, 1929. Over $10 billion of investors’ money was wiped out before noon. Huge crowds of angry and shocked investors packed
the visitor’s gallery of the NYSE to watch the debacle. By noon the market was in a “death spiral.” Investors around the world were horrified at the extent of the financial dam-age. By October 29, 1929, all the
market’s gains from the past year had been wiped out. Eventually, the market fell 89 percent from its 1929 high of 381.
After the crash, economists tried to figure out what had gone wrong. It was obvious that many people had missed the signs the market was overpriced. For example, the P/Es of many stocks were high, well beyond
what was considered the P/E safe zone of
15. In addition, the Fed decided to raise interest rates, which many economists considered to be the wrong move. Congress also had a hand in turning what really was a recession into a full-blown depression. For
example, during this period it doubled income taxes and raised tariffs on imports and exports.
Another problem was that banks were allowed to operate with few restrictions on how much they could lend. After the crash, many of the banks’ customers had no way of paying back the money they had
borrowed, forcing many banks to close. Finally, many people believed that fraud and insider activity was to blame. After the initial crash, the United States entered a 3-year bear market; the Dow finally bottomed
at 41 in 1932.
The new president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), took a number of unprecedented steps to bring stability and trust to the market, including creating the SEC in 1932. Wall Street was skeptical about letting the
government interfere with the private sector, but the steps FDR took eventually helped turn the econ-omy around. However, it took 25 years for the Dow to make it back to 381.
In the next chapter, you will learn how to build wealth over time by using long-term investment strategies.
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The reasoning behind the buy-and-hold strategy is that if you buy a stock in a fundamentally sound company and hold it for the long term (at least a year), you’ll realize a profit. The beauty of a buy-and-
hold strategy is that you can buy a stock and watch it rise in price without having to constantly watch the market. Investors who bought compa-nies like IBM, GE, and Microsoft in the early days made
huge sums of money on paper without having to pay much attention to the market. The other advantage of buy and hold is that because you are not con-stantly buying and selling stocks, you are paying
very little in brokers’ commissions. Buy and hold is the easiest investment strategy to use, and, in retrospect, it worked extremely well during the bull market of the 1990s.
Perhaps the only time buy-and-hold investors sell is if something fundamentally changes in a company. They don’t sell because of what is happening to the market, the economy, or the stock price. They
are focused only on the business, and they intend to hold their reasonably priced stocks as long as possible.
One of the most successful buy-and-hold investors of the twentieth century is billionaire Warren Buffett. He rarely buys stocks in technol-ogy companies, but rather buys the stocks of mundane companies
such as insurance companies and banks, and he has the skill (along with a team of independent analysts) to buy low and sell high.
In the hands of a professional, buy and hold can work, although many investors who used this strategy ended up losing their shirts dur-ing the recent bear market. Rather than buying low-priced value
stocks, they bought and held high-priced technology stocks. Buy and hold does work, but it’s not as easy to use as people think.
Buy on the Dip: An Offshoot of Buy and Hold
The buy-on-the-dip strategy was also very popular during the 1990s. In this strategy, when a stock you like goes down in price, especially if you believe the decline is only temporary, you buy more shares.
The idea is that because the market always goes up over time (or generally has in the past), the shares you bought at a lower price will eventually be worth more. People who used this strategy in the past
made tons of money as the shares they bought kept going higher.
The problem with buying on the dip is that stocks sometimes dip two or three times before dropping permanently. In the late 1990s, mil-lions of people poured their life savings into stocks that seemed like
bargains but actually were extremely overpriced. With every dip, more buyers stepped in. Then, during the 2000 bear market, many of these stocks didn’t just make a temporary dip, they crashed. During
the bear market, the stocks that made up the Nasdaq fell by over 80 percent. It is still too early to know if these stocks will ever return to the price levels they were at before.
Bottom Fishing: Finding Bargains among Unloved Stocks
If you are a bottom fisher, you look for stocks that are so low that they seem to have hit bottom. Professional bottom fishers are constantly on the lookout for stocks that are so low that they have nowhere
to go but up.
The danger of bottom fishing is that you never know exactly when the bottom has been reached. For example, when Enron went from nearly $100 a share to $15, many people bought more shares,
assuming that the stock couldn’t go much lower. When the stock was trading at $1 a share, the bottom fishers stepped in. The stock then fell almost 94 per-cent before really hitting bottom, finally closing
at 6 cents. You also face the danger that companies like Enron will eventually go out of business.
Because it could be years before many of these unloved stocks rise in price, you have to be extremely patient to be a successful bottom fisher. Stocks that are in the basement tend to stay there a while.
(Many bottom fishers will wait 2 or 3 years before scooping up favorite stocks that other investors have ignored.)
Dollar-Cost Averaging: A Systematic Stock-Buying Approach
Instead of buying stocks whenever you have extra money in your pocket, with dollar-cost averaging you buy stocks on a regular, sys-tematic basis. You invest a set amount of money, perhaps $100, each
set period of time—for example, each month. The beauty of this system is that as you buy stocks that are dropping in price, your average price per share also drops.
For example, let’s say you buy 100 shares of Bright Light at $20. The next month it drops to $10, so you buy another 200 shares. Your average cost is now $13.33 a share. As long as the market keeps
bounc-ing back, dollar-cost averaging is a winning strategy. The problem is that if your stocks keep dropping, you will be left with substantial losses.
A strategy similar to dollar-cost averaging is called averaging down. With this strategy, instead of investing a set amount of money each set period, you buy additional shares of stock on the way down.
With dollar-cost averaging, you have a plan. With averaging down, you buy addi-tional shares of stock whenever you please.
Value Investing: Buying Good-Quality Companies at a Cheap Price
Value investors primarily use fundamental analysis to pick good-quality stocks that are a bargain compared with their actual worth. In other words, value investors are looking for stocks that are on sale.
Often, value investors will buy stocks in companies that other investors don’t want. These are the low-P/E stocks of companies whose earnings grow slowly, such as insurance companies and banks. Value
investors are long-term investors and are willing to wait years for their stocks to become profitable.
During the 1990s, value investors were ridiculed for not buying the high-flying technology stocks. While some growth stocks were doubling or tripling in price, many value stocks were producing what
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some con-sidered pitiful returns. Ironically, after the 1990s ended, value stocks were back in favor. It seemed as though everyone wanted to buy fairly valued stocks in companies run by competent and
honest managers that showed signs of improved earnings performance.
Growth Investing: Buying Growing Companies
In general, growth investors use fundamental analysis to find stocks that are growing faster than the economy or earning more than other stocks in the same industry. Growth investors like to see earnings
growing by at least 15 or 20 percent a year for the next 3 or 4 years. Most important, these companies’ earnings are growing faster than those of other com-panies in competitive industries. Usually, these
stocks don’t pay divi-dends because whatever extra money the company earns is plowed back into the company.
For many years, growth investing worked spectacularly well. Invest-ing in growth stocks, particularly technology and Internet companies, was all the rage during the 1990s. It was not uncommon for
investors to see returns of 100 percent or more per year. Although investing in growth stocks can be risky, the rewards can be tremendous.
An offshoot of growth investing is called growth at a reasonable price (GARP). Investors who engage in this strategy basically combine value and growth investing into one strategy. They are looking for
growth stocks, but they are willing to wait until they can get the stocks at a reasonable price.
Momentum Investing: Buy High and Sell Higher
Momentum investors are growth investors who look for stocks that are ready to make explosive moves upward. They buy stocks at a high price but plan to sell them at an even higher price. They don’t care
too much about the price they paid as long as the stock goes higher. Momentum investing works best during bull markets when there is a lot of liquidity. In the late 1990s, it seemed as if no matter which
stock you bought—especially if was an Internet stock—the stock would go higher.
Some critics call momentum investing the “greater fool theory,” which means that no matter how high the stock price is, you will always be able to find a bigger fool who is willing to buy it from you.
Momen-tum investors tend to use technical analysis to look for stocks that will make sudden and dramatic moves in a short period.
In the go-go 1990s, a surprise announcement or positive rumor could send stocks up 20 or 30 points in one day. Although it is still pos-sible to find momentum stocks, it’s not as easy as it was a few years
ago. (And it’s unlikely that we’ll see that kind of market environment again for many years to come.)
Momentum investing, although exciting and potentially profitable, is a difficult strategy. Many momentum stocks can explode in either direction, often costing you a lot of money. Although it’s possible to
catch some of these stocks on the upside, it is definitely not as easy as it looks. (Perhaps you should wait for the next bull market before using a momentum strategy.)
Contrarian Investing: Doing the Opposite of Everyone Else
Contrarians, as they call themselves, use fundamental analysis to find high-quality companies with low P/Es that other investors have aban-doned. The more unloved the stock, the more contrarian
investors like it. When everyone else was accumulating technology stocks in the late 1990s, contrarians were buying out-of-favor companies like Waste Man-agement (WMI) and Red Hat (RHAT). After
many technology stocks imploded, contrarians were scooping up shares of stock in unloved com-panies like Xerox (XRX).
Contrarians are especially fascinated by a company that the media and other investors hate. However, it takes a tremendous amount of skill and patience to find formerly high-flying stocks that will once
again outperform the market. In addition, it takes courage to buy stocks that no one else wants.
There is also a group of contrarian traders called “investolators” who use technical analysis, especially charts and institutional owner-ship, to find stock picks. Just like contrarian investors, investolators
look for unloved companies that have hit bottom. Ted Warren coined the term investolator in the 1930s, combining the words investor and speculator.
CANSLIM: A Disciplined Method of Picking Stocks
William O’Neil, founder and publisher of Investor’s Business Daily, designed a rule-based investing system called CANSLIM. What is most helpful about CANSLIM is that it combines both technical and
fundamental analysis, although it leans more toward the technical. Each letter of CANSLIM stands for a char-acteristic of a winning stock:
C: Current quarterly earnings per share
A: Annual earnings increase
N: New products, new management, new highs
S: Supply and demand
L: Leader or laggard
I: Institutional sponsorship
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M: Market direction
Ideally, a winning stock should have all of these attributes, according to what O’Neil wrote in his best-selling book How to Make Money in Stocks.
C: Buy stocks with large increases in current earnings, prefer-ably 25 percent or more. The higher the earnings per share, the better. Buy stocks in companies with accelerating earn-ings, especially when
compared to previous quarters or years.
A: Concentrate on stocks that have increased earnings per share every year for the last 3 years. In addition, look for stocks with recent quarterly earnings improvement. Stocks with strong earnings
improvement will have a higher probability of success.
N: Look for companies that have introduced new products or changed management. In addition, using technical analysis, look for stocks that have consolidated for a while before breaking out to reach
new price highs.
S: The stock market is all about supply and demand. Find stocks that are rising in price on rising volume, a signal that institutional investors might be buying. Trading volume should be 50 percent above
normal. In addition, look for companies that buy back their own stock and upper-level managers who privately own shares in their company.
L: Buy the strongest stocks in an industry group or sector. There is no reason to buy weak stocks (the laggards) even if the price is lower. In particular, buy the strongest stocks in a weak market (what
technicians call relative strength). You want the leading stocks in the strongest industries with a rel-ative price strength of 80 or more (a statistic found exclu-sively in Investor’s Business Daily).
I: Buy stocks that are also owned by institutional investors such as pension funds, banks, and mutual funds. Stocks with strong institutional support are liquid, so it’s easy to enter and exit.
M: Study price and volume indicators to understand the strength and weakness of the market. Use stock charts to identify market tops and bottoms. Use technical analysis not to make predictions but to
understand what the stock is doing right now.
In the next chapter, you will learn how to make money quickly using short-term trading strategies.
Want to Make Money Fast? Try These Trading Strategies
Many of the following strategies are popular with aggressive short-term traders who want to make money quickly by taking advantage of volatile stock prices. These traders primarily use technical analysis
to look for profitable trading opportunities, although some of them con-firm their picks using fundamental analysis before buying or selling a stock.
Day Trading: Buying and Selling in Minutes
Unlike investors, who may wait years before selling, day traders buy and sell within seconds, minutes, or hours. Day trading is an extreme trading strategy that involves constantly moving into and out of
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Although it takes time to learn how to trade ETFs successfully, it’s worth your time to learn how this popular investment product works.
Trading on News
Like day trading, trading stocks based on the news is a difficult method to play and win. It’s impossible to know how the market will react to news about your stocks. There is a wise old saying: Buy on the
rumor and sell on the news. Often a stock will rise or drop in price in antici-pation of a news event, such as an earnings release or a Fed meeting. Once the news is released, however, the stock will go in
the opposite direction, which explains why it is so difficult to buy or sell stocks based on what is in the news.
In reality, news is coming at you from dozens of different direc-tions: newspapers, magazines, the Internet, television, and friends. The hard part is figuring out which information is valuable and which
should be ignored. It’s amazing how wrong people (both professionals and amateurs) have been about the market. Most of what people tell you about the market is useless. Nevertheless, keep in mind that
stocks go up or down based on what people perceive to be the truth.
Some people deliberately try to influence the direction of stocks by spreading false information about companies. A few years ago, a stock could rise or fall based on nothing more than a well-placed rumor
in an Internet chat room. So many people lost money by trading on tips and rumors that they stopped listening, at least temporarily. When the next bull market appears (and it is likely to be a long wait),
the scam artists will crawl from beneath the rocks to lure unsuspecting investors into losing money on stocks.
Although options are rather difficult to understand, with a little prac-tice, they begin to make more sense. That’s why many professional traders include option strategies in their portfolios. In particular,
traders will use options to hedge their position (taking the opposite side of a trade to reduce risk). For example, if a trader is long a stock, he or she might use options to short the same stock. While options
can seem a bit overwhelming even for experienced investors, I’ll do my best to explain them so that they make sense.
Think of an option as a contract that gives you the right, but not the obligation, to purchase or sell an item. It could be a house, a commod-ity like oil or corn, or a stock. One type of stock option, for
example, gives you the right to purchase a particular stock at a given price by a certain date. The wonderful part about options is that you don’t have to own the stock to trade them. Options are also called
derivatives because their price comes from, or is derived from, the stock price.
The two most popular types of options are the call and the put. A call option gives you the right to buy a stock at a specified price. A put option allows you the right to sell a stock at a specified price. You
have the right to buy or sell the underlying stock, but most people don’t exer-cise this right. They simply buy and sell the option. For a fraction of the price, you can control hundreds or thousands of
dollars worth of stock.
For example, let’s say Bright Light is selling for $20 a share. You like Bright Light, and you think it will rise to $25 a share. So you decide to buy a call option with a strike price of $25. (You can choose
any strike price. The further away the strike price is from the current price, the cheaper the option. For example, an option with a $20 strike price will be more expensive than one with a $25 strike price.) If
Bright Light does hit $25 or higher, you will be “in the money.” The higher the stock goes, the more money you will make.
There is a catch, however. When you buy an option, you also have to specify an expiration date, usually from 1 to 3 months from the date of purchase. This means that Bright Light must rise to or above
the strike price before the expiration date or you will lose your entire investment.
You also have the right to sell before the expiration date. (Some options double or triple within days, so it’s wise to lock in a profit.)
When you call your broker (or enter your order online), you might say, “I would like to buy five June contracts with a strike price of $25 a share.” Each contract is worth 100 shares of stock. In this case,
Bright Light has to rise to $25 a share or higher before the third Friday in June for you to make a profit (although you could sell it before the expira-tion date for a profit). How much will this cost you? The
farther away the expiration date, the more it costs. For example, the June contracts might cost you $2 each. If you buy five option contracts, it will cost you $1000 (500 shares times $2 each). The July
contracts might be $4 each, (although keep in mind that the price changes constantly during the day). There are contracts for every month of the year.
So you buy the June contracts for Bright Light at $2 each, for a cost of $1000. (If you bought 500 shares of Bright Light stock, it would cost you $10,000—$20 a share times 500 shares. When you buy the
option, it costs you only $1000. So for $1000 you are controlling $10,000 worth of stock.) Let’s say Bright Light rises to $25 within a week. You are now “at the money.” As the price of Bright Light goes
higher, the price of the option rises. You can also exercise your right to buy Bright Light stock for $25 a share.
The downside to options is that a lot of things have to go right for you to make money. First, if Bright Light doesn’t rise to $25 a share by the third Friday in June, you lose the entire $1000. The option will
expire worthless; as a matter of fact, according to studies, 90 percent of options contracts expire worthless. After commissions and taxes, most individuals don’t make a dime trading options.
Instead of buying a call option, you could always buy a put option. In this case, you are anticipating that the price of the stock will go down, not up. During the recent long bear market, people who bought
and sold put options cleaned up, assuming that they sold before the expiration date.
The options game is a tough one to win. To make money on options, you have to be right about both the timing and the price direc-tion of the underlying stock. If you’re wrong on either count, you will
lose your entire investment. However, if you are still fascinated by options and want to learn more, there are dozens of option strategies.
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Ask your brokerage firm for the brochure Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options, which explains in detail how options work and the risks you take by trading them.
Writing Covered Calls: An Advanced Option Strategy to Generate Income
There is an intriguing but somewhat confusing option strategy that actually works well in a sideways market. It’s called writing covered calls on a stock that you already own. This is considered one of the
most conservative option strategies because it lowers the cost basis of the stock that you own.
Writing covered calls works like this: You sell a call option on a stock that you own to a call buyer, giving the buyer the right to take the stock out of your account at the agreed-upon price. For example,
let’s say you own 500 shares of Bright Light, which is currently selling for $20 a share. You write 5 calls (or 500 shares) for Bright Light with a strike price of $25 a share. When you sell the calls, you
immediately receive money from the call buyer. (If the calls were selling for $1 each, then $500 would be placed into your account.)
Let’s see what happens next. If Bright Light never makes it to $25 a share by the expiration date, then you keep the $500 and the option expires worthless for the call buyer. You then can write another 5
calls for another $500. On the other hand, if Bright Light does make it to $25 a share, you still keep the $500, but your Bright Light stock will auto-matically be sold at $25 a share.
The ideal market environment for a call writer is one in which stocks are going sideways. In a sideways market, the stock is unlikely to go very high, which is why writing calls can be a consistent money-
maker. Even if Bright Light falls in price and you are forced to sell it at a loss, you get to keep the $500, which is called the premium. Many investors write calls no longer than a month in advance.
What is the disadvantage of writing covered calls? First, think about what would happen if Bright Light were to keep going higher, perhaps to $30 or $35? You have already sold it at $25, and so you
won’t participate in the price spike. Second, many option traders are so focused on the premium that they don’t pay attention to the underlying stock. If you make 10 percent on the premium but lose 40
percent on the stock, you have lost money. That is why if you are going to trade options, it is essential that you first understand how to trade stocks.
ETF Workshop: Trading the QQQs
One of the skills of a professional trader is to search for ways to make money during any market environment. Although it was easy for people to book profits during a raging bull market, the current indecisive
market has been a lot more challenging on a day-to-day basis. That is why experienced traders are always looking for new and aggressive strategies to let them survive and win in today’s market.
One surprisingly effective strategy for both investors and traders is trading the Nasdaq 100 index on the American Stock Exchange, known as “the Qs” from its symbol, QQQ. This index consists of the largest and
most actively traded stocks on the Nasdaq. Many professional traders and investors have discov-ered the Qs, making it one of the most liquid stocks on the American Stock Exchange.
There are a number of advantages to trading the Qs. With just one stock, you are basically trading the entire Nasdaq mar-ket, and with a lot more control than if you owned a mutual fund. In addition, the high
liquidity of the Q’s means that your order will be filled quickly. And finally, because there is no uptick rule with the Qs, you can short stocks even as they are falling. (The uptick rule means that on traditional
stocks you aren’t allowed to short a stock until there is an “uptick,” or a temporary spike in the price.)
The disadvantage of trading the Qs is that they don’t move as far or as fast as many traditional stocks. This, however, could also be perceived as an advantage, since for a little less potential profit, you are also
reducing your risk. Keep in mind that because trading the Qs is similar to trading a stock, it’s easy to lose money if you are on the wrong side of the trade.
One of the reasons that many individual investors avoid investing in the Qs is that the index fell from a high of $100 a share when it was introduced in 1999 to as low as $20 three years later. Obviously, anyone
who shorted the Qs made a small for-tune. If you aren’t comfortable trading the Qs, you can also try its relatives, the SPY (S&P 500) or the DIA (Dow 30).
If you are a new short-term trader, the Qs are a fantastic way of learning how to trade the NASDAQ long or short with a little less risk. On most days, the Qs trade within a well-defined trad-ing range. If you are an
investor who thinks the Qs hit bottom at $20, you could buy shares for a long-term investment. In any of these situations, be sure to use protective stop losses.
In the next chapter, you will learn how investors use funda-mental analysis to buy and sell stocks.
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FINDING STOCKS TO BUY AND SELL
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Talk to the Managers
Many investors who use fundamental analysis believe in talking to the CEO and company managers to get a feel for how the corporation is being run. Ideally, when you speak to management, you can ask
how the business is doing, where it will be spending its money, and who its competitors are; you can also get insights about the corporation. Ques-tioning managers is something that many professional
fund managers do. They want to invest in companies with experienced, innovative managers who have a vision for the future. They try to avoid companies that have too much debt, are losing business to
competitors, and have other liabilities (like lawsuits) that can affect earnings.
As an individual investor, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to sit down with the CEO or upper management to share a drink and a game of golf and to try to find out exactly what is going on in the
cor-poration. And even if you could, it is doubtful that the CEO would say anything negative about the corporation. That is why management interviews are somewhat controversial and why some
professional investors would rather study the balance sheet than talk with managers.
Company Insiders: Watch Them Closely
According to the SEC, officers and directors of a corporation who have access to proprietary information and people who own more than 10 percent of the corporation’s stock are considered corporate
insiders. You can get clues to how a stock will do by looking at whether insid-ers are buying or selling the stock. To find what insiders are doing, log onto Yahoo! Finance (finance.yahoo.com), CBS
Marketwatch (www. marketwatch.com), or Bloomberg (www.bloomberg.com). In addition, the SEC’s Web site, www.sec.gov, manages the EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering Analysis and Retrieval)
database, which contains many fascinating financial documents about the actions of insiders.
Some investors have created strategies that involve copying insid-ers. After all, insiders are more knowledgeable about the future prospects of the company than others are. On the other hand, there are
problems with tracking insider transactions. Sometimes insiders buy or sell for reasons that have nothing to do with what is happening at the company. In addition, because of the way insider transactions
are reported, you may not find out what insiders are doing until it is too late. For example, while the CEOs of Enron and WorldCom dumped millions of shares of stock in their companies, their action
wasn’t made public until the stocks were trading for pennies a share (insider reports are sometimes delayed by up to 3 months).
The Balance Sheet: Uncovering the Truth about a Company’s Finances
A balance sheet is a report of the financial condition of a business, including items that only an accountant could love. And yet, to really understand the company you have invested in, you should study its
Unfortunately, most people buy stocks without taking the time to read the balance sheet. Just remember this: You shouldn’t waste thou-sands of dollars investing in a company unless you know a few facts
about it, like how much the company earns, how much it spends, and how much it owes. When you have found out the truth about a com-pany’s earnings, expenses, and debt, you’ll have a better idea of
whether you should buy its stock.
The balance sheet is found at the back of a company’s annual report. You can also find any company’s balance sheet by registering free at www.businessweek.com. Type in the stock symbol and select
SEC filings. You can also log on to Edgar Online, a subscription-based service that allows you access to all SEC filings, including the quar-terly 10-Q filing and the annual 10-K filing.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the items on a balance sheet (which by no means includes everything):
1. Assets (what the company owns, such as cash, property, equip-ment, real estate, and accounts receivable)
2. Liabilities (what the company owes, such as declared and unpaid dividends and accounts payable)
3. Shareholders’ equity, or net worth (assets minus liabilities)
Let’s take a look at Bright Light’s consolidated balance sheet, shown in Figure 9-1.
Bright Light Balance Sheet
December 31, December 31, 2002 2001ASSETS
Current AssetsCash and cash equivalents 1,196 1,098Accounts receivables 1,637 1,367Inventories 528 530Deferred income taxes 158 120Property and equipment 978 877Other
assets 325 103
—————— ——————Total Current Assets: 4,822 4,095
LIABILITIES AND STOCKHOLDER’S EQUITY
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Current LiabilitiesAccounts Payable 879 525Accrued Expenses 578 502Income taxes payable 186 179Current Portion of Long-Term Debt 98 75
—————— ——————Total current liabilities: 1,741 1,281
Stockholder’s EquityCommon stock 1,567 1,567Retained earnings 1,514 1,247
—————— ——————Total stockholder’s equity: 3,081 2,814
Total liabilities and
stockholder’s equity: 4,822 4,095
Simply put, a balance sheet is a list of everything a company owns and everything it owes. This gives shareholders a snapshot of the com-pany’s finances. The best way to study a balance sheet is to
compare it to the balance sheets of other companies in the same industry. In addi-tion, you should look at the balance sheet for previous years to get a better idea of where the company has been and where
it might be going.
As long as the company is not hiding debt or liabilities, the balance sheet gives you a glimpse of its financial condition. However, reading a balance sheet takes skill because some companies are clever at
hiding their expenses and debt while exaggerating their earnings.
For example, only a handful of knowledgeable investors figured out that the balance sheets of companies like Enron and WorldCom didn’t add up. As it turned out, upper management at these two compa-
nies gave an extremely distorted view of the true financial picture. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for investors to uncover the truth. Nevertheless, before Enron’s collapse, financial expert
War-ren Buffett reminded investors he never invested in a company in which he didn’t understand how they made money. The lesson: If you’re still confused after reading the balance sheet, invest your
The Annual Report
For many people, there isn’t anything more boring than reading the annual report, a financial report of large, publicly owned cor-porations. These reports are often long, generally 30 or more pages containing
important financial statements such as the bal-ance sheet and income statement. In addition, there might be a letter from the CEO about the steps he or she is taking to make the business more profitable, how the
company has performed, and business strategies. Unless you are an accountant or lawyer, it could easily take you all day to wade through the entire report, which often contains public relations fluff. Many pros
have learned to focus only on the information in the report they believe is important and ignore the rest.
To cover themselves, many companies will mention all of the risks you’ll take if you invest in the company. They also tend to highlight the positive aspects of their business while minimizing the negative. As
mentioned before, a few companies purposely deceived investors into believing they were more profitable than they were, although a careful read of the annual report could pro-vide clues that the company was not
entirely truthful. Some of the most fascinating tidbits can be found in the footnotes. This is per-haps where you’ll learn about perceived risks, ongoing legal issues, and other unforeseen problems.
Although it might be painful to read the entire annual report, it’s worth your while to understand where you are putting your hard-earned money. If you are a long-term investor, you want to learn whether or not the
company is making money, whether its debt is rising or falling, and if management has a successful business plan.
In the next chapter, you will learn the tools and tactics that funda-mental analysts use to value stocks.
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No matter how good you think a corporation is or how much you love its managers, if the company isn’t earning money, eventually its stock price will fall. That’s where EPS comes in. You can find it at
the bottom of the company’s income statement, below net income. (You calculate EPS by dividing a company’s after-tax profit by the company’s outstanding shares.) You can also find the EPS in the
company’s quarterly or annual report, on any number of financial Web sites, such as Yahoo! Finance, or in periodicals like Barron’s, the Financial Times, or the Wall Street Jour-nal. The financial
newspaper Investor’s Business Daily also ranks the relative strength of EPS on a scale of 1 to 99. Figure 10-2 gives the EPS for IBM.
If a company is earning more money, it obviously should be rewarded with a higher stock price. That’s why it’s so useful to compare the company’s earnings with those of the previous quarter or the
previous year to determine if earnings are going up. (Because some companies are
Earnings Per Share: IBM
Earnings Per Share ($) for Fiscal Year Ending December
2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997
1Q 0.68 0.98 0.83 0.77 0.53 0.59
2Q 0.03 1.15 1.06 1.28 0.75 0.73
3Q 0.76 0.90 1.08 0.93 0.78 0.69
4Q 0.59 1.33 1.48 1.12 1.23 1.05
Year 2.06 4.35 4.44 4.12 3.28 3.00
seasonal, quarter-to-quarter comparisons may not be as useful as year-to-year comparisons.)
Unfortunately, finding out how much a company really earns is not as easy as it appears. Some CEOs will play a number of accounting tricks to make it appear that earnings are stronger than they really
are. (To keep stock prices artificially high, some CEOs “cooked the books,” or changed the numbers so it appeared that the company was making more money than it had in the past. In such cases, when
the truth comes out, the company is often forced to restate its earnings, causing the stock to plum-met. For example, WorldCom restated its earnings by billions of dollars.)
It’s not enough to buy stocks in companies that grow by more than 15 percent a year—you must also understand how the company makes that money. It sometimes takes a stock detective to find out the
The Earnings Estimates Game
Adding to the confusion about EPS, stock analysts (people who are paid to independently research corporations and make buy or sell rec-ommendations on their stocks) make estimates or predictions of
com-panies’ future earnings. Often, a stock will rise on the expectation that the company’s earnings will grow in the future. If a company beats ana-lysts’ estimates, the stock price usually goes up. If a
company misses analysts’ estimates, even by as little as a penny, the stock price usually falls. Sometimes a company will beat analysts’ published estimates but not beat the “whisper number,” an unofficial
earnings estimate that is generally not made public. As noted earlier, CEOs are under extreme pressure to beat the earnings estimates.
Looking at Stock Ratios
The Price/Earnings Ratio: The Granddaddy of Stock Ratios
Many people use the price/earnings ratio (P/E) to get a quick indica-tion of whether the stock price is reasonable given the company’s earn-ings. When you divide the stock price by the company’s
earnings per share, you end up with a P/E ratio (also known as the multiple), that can help you determine whether a stock is fairly valued. Many people think that the P/E is the most effective way to
measure a stock. Actu-ally, the P/E is just one of many tools you can use to decide what stocks to buy.
For example, a stock that sells for $20 a share and earned $2 last year has a trailing P/E of 10 ($20 divided by $2); the trailing P/E uses earnings from the last year. If a $20 stock were expected to earn $4
next year, it would have a forward P/E of 5 ($20 divided by $4). In this case, you are using analysts’ estimates concerning what will happen in the future. The great thing about the P/E is that you can
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easily and quickly compare individual stocks with one another, with their sector, or with the overall market.
Many investors decide whether to buy a stock based on its P/E. For example, value investors (bargain hunters looking for stocks of high-quality companies that are selling for a reasonable price) prefer to
buy stocks with low P/Es, ideally under 15. (Warren Buffett, for example, buys only companies with trailing P/Es of 10 or less.) On the other hand, growth investors (aggressive buyers looking for stocks
in compa-nies whose sales or earnings are growing rapidly) don’t mind buying stocks with high P/Es because they expect the companies’ earnings to improve in the future. If a stock has a P/E of 50 but is
growing by 60 percent a year, the stock could be a bargain.
Nevertheless, basing your stock decisions on what a company’s earnings might be in the future has backfired on many investors. In par-ticular, analysts’ expectations concerning future earnings have often
been overly optimistic. For example, in the late 1990s, analyst Mary Meeker continually urged investors to buy shares of Priceline, even though its P/E was outrageously high (it had no earnings and an
extremely high stock price). She claimed that traditional fundamental measurements like P/E didn’t matter anymore. That was a few months before Priceline fell from hundreds of dollars per share to a
couple of dollars. The lesson: P/Es do matter.
Even now, misconceptions about the P/E are common. Just because a stock’s P/E is low doesn’t mean that you should buy the stock. And just because the P/E is high doesn’t mean that the stock should be
avoided (although the risk is higher). In general, you can use the P/E to determine quickly if a stock is cheap or expensive when compared with its peers and the overall market. (By the way, pay attention
to the P/E of the entire market. For years, the P/E of the S&P 500 was hovering above 30, a clue that the market was overvalued. Some analysts believe that the S&P 500 will have to drop to a P/E of 15,
its historical average, before it will be fairly priced.)
Price/Earnings/Growth: Taking the P/E One Step Farther
The P/E ratio is quite useful, but it doesn’t take into account future earnings potential. That’s what the price/earnings/growth (PEG) ratio is designed to do. To calculate the PEG, instead of simply dividing
the stock price by the earnings (as you do for the P/E), you divide the P/E by the earnings growth of the company. For example, if a company has a P/E of 20 and an annual earnings growth rate of 10
percent, the PEG will be 2. This allows you to take into account both the P/E and the company’s growth rate in determining the value of a company. Many people feel that the PEG is more accurate than
the P/E because it takes future growth into account.
The guideline for PEG users is as follows:
A stock with a PEG of less than 0.50 is desirable (undervalued).
A stock with a PEG between 0.50 and 1 is good (fair value).
A stock with a PEG higher than 1 is not recommended, especially
if the PEG is over 2 (overvalued).
Warning:You should use the PEG as only one piece of a larger cal-culation. Do not decide to buy a stock based solely on its PEG results. For the most complete and accurate calculation, it is suggested
that you use the PEG to compare stocks within the same industry. The problem with the PEG, like that with the forward P/E, is that you are basing your information on earnings estimates, which have
histori-cally been unreliable. That is why it is so important that you use a vari-ety of tools before deciding to buy or sell a stock.
Price-to-Sales Ratio: Effective for Uncovering Revenue
Because P/E ratios are generally useless with companies that have no earnings, some investors use the price-to-sales ratio (P/S) to decide whether to buy a stock. The reasoning is that although you can
play with earnings, you can’t play with revenue. With the P/S ratio, you compare price to sales revenue. To calculate the price-to-sales ratio, you divide the company’s total market value by the total sales
revenue booked for the previous year. Some people claim that the P/S is more reliable than the P/E or the PEG. (By the way, before Enron filed for bankruptcy, its P/S ratio reportedly rose to over 200!
Typically, a P/S of over 5 is considered high, so 200 was a clear warning sign. It basically meant that investors were paying $200 for each dollar of Enron’s sales.) Many value investors will look for stocks
with a P/S ratio of less than 1.
Return on Equity: Measuring the Financial Health of a Company
Return on equity (ROE) is a tool that helps you to measure how effec-tively the company is being managed. Some people consider ROE one of the most important measures of a company’s overall
financial per-formance. (You calculate ROE by dividing net income by net worth, although this ratio is not as clear-cut because you must rely on subjec-tive variables to calculate manager efficiency.
In general, the higher the ROE, the more effective the company is at using its resources and the more productive the management team. In other words, ROE gives you an idea of how well the company is
man-aged. The goal is to look for companies with a rising ROE, greater than 15 percent and growing.
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There are many other fundamental stock measurements, including return on investment (ROI), debt-to-equity ratio, price-to-book ratio (PB), and return on assets (ROA). The purpose of many of these
funda-mental tools is to determine whether a stock is a good value compared to its price. Because this is an introductory book, my review of funda-mental analysis ends here. For a more thorough
examination of funda-mental analysis, you’ll find dozens of books about this topic at the bookstore or public library.
Problems with Fundamental Analysis
One of the problems with fundamental analysis is that you must rely on the information that a corporation provides. If the corporation is fudg-ing the numbers or is not entirely truthful, then the future
earnings pro-jections will be off base. As you know from the recent corporate scandals, many companies, to prop up their stock price, were pressing their accountants and banks to misrepresent expenses as
Some corporations were spending money or making loans to exec-utives, but classifying these as income. And in a few cases, CEOs were lying about the numbers. If a corporation gives out overly
optimistic earnings numbers or lies, then fundamental analysis by itself won’t help you. You need the skill and knowledge of an accomplished accountant to uncover accounting irregularities.
Another problem is that you are making assumptions about a com-pany’s future prospects that are hard to prove. Furthermore, fundamen-tal analysis doesn’t take into account the psychological reasons
that people drive stock prices up. For example, even though the fundamen-tals showed that many stocks were overpriced during the 1990s, this didn’t stop them from going obscenely higher.
A final problem with fundamental analysis is that it is extremely time-consuming. Most individual investors don’t take the time or have the knowledge to correctly value a company. Professional money
man-agers hire teams of analysts to do fundamental research on individual companies before they make a stock purchase. Individual investors have to rely on biased research that is passed down from Wall
Street or by word of mouth on the Internet.
Biography of Warren Buffett
If you ask professional investors to name the greatest investor of all time, most of them will probably name billionaire Warren Buffett. He is best known as the CEO of $70,000-a-share Berk-shire Hathaway, a
company involved in a number of businesses, including insurance, publishing, and manufacturing.
Benjamin Graham, the author of two value investment clas-sics, Security Analysis, first published in 1934, and Intelligent Investor, influenced Buffett early in his life. Buffett later worked for Graham at Graham’s
brokerage firm, learning from the mas-ter how to manage investment portfolios and pick value stocks.
Buffett made a number of successful modifications to Gra-ham’s original strategies. He uses a stock’s book value, P/E, and dividend yield, among other objective measurements, to calcu-late the company’s fair
value. He believes in buying a company for less than it’s worth and patiently holding its stock for a life-time.
One of the reasons Buffett avoided investing in Internet stocks was that he couldn’t determine their true value. Buffett strongly believes in buying stocks in companies that are simple and understandable (so that he
can calculate their future earnings growth). Most Internet companies had little or no earnings and sky-high P/E ratios. At the time, several pros derided Buffett for avoiding investments in technology companies. In
hindsight, Buffett was right.
Buffett has earned a reputation for honesty and a sense of humor. He was one of the first to point out that you should be cautious about investing in companies that play accounting games when they use stock
options to compensate employees.
Many people have tried to emulate Buffett’s successful buy-and-hold strategies. A number of excellent books have been writ-ten about his strategies, most of which are based on common sense. The difficult part
for most investors is learning how to value a business—something that Buffett has learned how to do after a lifetime of investment success.
In the next chapter, you will learn how traders use technical analysis to buy and sell stocks.
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A line chart basically plots the closing prices of a stock over a specific period. A line connects the price points. Although line charts are easy to read and understand, they are not as popular with
experienced short-term traders because they don’t provide very much information. They are most useful when they are combined with other technical indica-tors. However, many newspapers and
television programs use line charts because they are so visually appealing. Figure 11-1 is an exam-
each with a different time frame.
Line, Bar, and Candlestick Charts
ple of a line chart.
In this example, you can see immediately that the stock is moving higher. The volume bars are on the bottom. Notice that during the week of October 3, Cisco fell by several points. On October 8,
however, there was a spike in volume, and the stock then began to move higher over the next few weeks. More than likely, a large institution accumulated
Bar charts are popular with some short-term traders because they are so simple to use and understand. Figure 11-2 is an example of a bar chart. The horizontal scale at the bottom of the chart indicates the
specific period (in Figure 11-2, a day). The vertical scale displays the prices the stock can take on during the period. The bar is the range of prices for the period. For example, the top of the bar represents
the highest price for the day, and the bottom represents the lowest price for the day. There are also two “ticks” attached to the bar, one that extends to the left and
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(bought) shares of the stock.
one that extends to the right. The left tick stands for the opening price for the trading day, and the right tic marks the closing price.
You can see at a glance, whether the stock closed above or below its opening price. Generally, it is a good sign if a stock closes the day above where it started, especially if there is strong volume right into
Candlestick charts are popular with many traders because they show so much information, including the psychology of the market at any given time. Many traders believe that understanding the emotions
of the mar-ket is helpful in determining future trends. (A 17th-century rice broker in Japan created the candlestick chart to help him trade rice. As it turned out, his charting methods enabled him to make a
fortune in the Japanese rice markets.)
Figure 11-3 is an example of a Candlestick chart. As you can see, candlestick charts use two-dimensional bodies to show the range between the opening and closing prices of a stock during any period. The
high and low prices are plotted as single lines and are referred to as wicks (or shadows). The price range between the open and the close is plotted as a narrow rectangle and is referred to as the body. If the
stock price ended the day above the opening price, the body of the rectangle is white or clear. If the stock price ended the day below the opening price, the body is black or solid.
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You could say that one of the main purposes of charting is to spot a trend in its early stages. A trend is simply the direction in which a stock is moving over a specific period. A stock usually doesn’t move
in a straight line, which is why spotting the trend direction is so important.
There are actually three types of trends: uptrend, downtrend, and sideways trend. The goal is to participate in uptrends while avoiding downtrends. A saying that technicians repeat is, “The trend is your
friend (until it ends).” The idea is to ride a trend for as long as possible until it runs out of steam.
A stock that is in a downtrend is moving lower and has been for a while. To create a downtrend, draw a line along the top of the chart in such a way that you connect at least two points. If a stock is in a
down-trend with high volume (meaning that a lot of people are selling), the stock could be in trouble. Figure 11-4 shows an example of a stock in a downtrend.
If a stock is in a downtrend and has been for a while, you have to be pretty brave to buy the stock. A few years ago, people used to buy stocks when they were in a downtrend because they assumed that the
trend was only temporary. This aggressive strategy actually worked until the 2000 bear market arrived. At that point, instead of there being a temporary dip, most stocks kept going down, wiping out the
accounts of many investors. No matter what you think of technical analysis, it is a mistake to ignore what you see on a stock chart.
Figure 11-5 is a weekly chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. As you can see, although the index didn’t move up in a straight line, the trend is still up. This is obviously a very positive sign if you are
a buyer. The challenge, of course, is determining how long the uptrend will continue. Given this chart, since there are signs that the uptrend
A stock that is moving higher and has been for a while is in an uptrend. To create an uptrend, draw a line along the bottom of the chart in such a way that you connect at least two points. Many short-term
traders like to buy stocks that are trending higher. (Instead of buying low and sell-ing high, traders might buy high and sell higher.) Just as in a down-trend, traders will look at volume to help determine
whether the stock is a good buy. After all, if a stock is moving higher on increasing vol-ume, a lot of people are buying it. Figure 11-5 shows a stock index in
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has ended at $89, short-term traders may sell their long positions or sell short.
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There is really nothing more frustrating than watching a stock go up and down but end up in the same place where it began. This is what we call a sideways trend. A stock in a sideways trend is moving up
and down like a bouncing ball but is so disorganized that it’s hard to know which direction it’s going. If you are a trader, you generally avoid get-ting involved with stocks that are trading sideways. By the
way, the vol-ume in a sideways pattern is often very low. Figure 11-6 shows a stock in a sideways trend.
Although trading stocks that are in a sideways trend is difficult, sometimes the sweetest profits come when a stock that is trading sideways for a while (traders will say that the stock is consolidating)
suddenly breaks violently up or down. The difficult part, however, is figuring out when the sideways pattern will finally end. It would be dangerous for a short-term trader to buy the stock in Figure 11-6
In Figure 11-7, the index QQQ was clearly in a downtrend in early September. By the end of the month, however, it had suddenly reversed direction, and it continued to move higher. A short-term trader
isn’t especially concerned about why the stock reversed direction—only that it did. Identifying this trend reversal and buying it during the early stages could be very profitable for a trader. In this case,
One of the challenges of technical analysis is to determine when the current stock trend will run out of steam and reverse direction. In fact, technicians are constantly on the lookout for the “breaking” of
the trend line, which signifies a trend reversal. Figure 11-7 gives an example of
because it is so unpredictable. It could easily move in either direction.
a stock index that has reversed direction.
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stock for a month or longer (until there was another trend reversal) would have brought the most profits.
The challenge is to identify a trend reversal before it happens. If you do identify a trend reversal, it’s essential you use other technical indicators to confirm that it’s real and not just a temporary reversal.
Also, just because a trend has continued for a long time doesn’t mean that it’s in any danger of a reversal. Long trend lines are very common.
Support and Resistance
Support: Buyers Win the Battle
If you understand support and resistance, you will have a better idea of when to buy or sell a stock. Support and resistance keep appearing on stock charts no matter what method of technical analysis you
identify support and resistance on a stock chart.
you want to be a successful trader, you will need to understand how to
When a stock price is falling, there will be certain places on the way down when buyers will step in and prevent the stock from falling further. Support is the price level at which a stock’s price has stopped
falling and either is moving sideways or has reversed direction. The demand for the stock is thought to be strong enough to prevent the price
Support is often at whole numbers because people tend to buy at whole numbers. When you look at a chart, you can often find support levels by studying how the stock reacted in the past. Let’s use the
pop-ular 3-month chart given in Figure 11-8 to show support, which is
In Figure 11-8, support is at $56.50 a share, the price that Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) hit three times before reversing. In fact, after the period shown in this chart, JNJ couldn’t hold either $56.50 or $56, but
from dropping further. The buyers are in control.
between $56 and $57 a share.
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continued to fall. In such a case, technicians say that the stock “broke through support.” When this happens, it is a very bad sign. It means that there aren’t enough buyers to support the stock at that price
level. Tech-nicians also notice that this stock is making a series of “lower lows,” which means that the support level keeps going lower. At least in the short term, this is not a good sign for the stock.
In the 1990s, one of the most closely followed stocks in the United States was Cisco Systems (CSCO). It seemed as if everyone owned shares in this company. Although the stock was wildly popular,
techni-cal analysts paid close attention to its support level, which was $50 a share. Every time Cisco dropped to $50, it bounced back.
In early 2000, Cisco fell below $50 a share, breaking through sup-port. Once this happened, many short-term traders who used technical analysis sold their shares. When all these people sold at once, Cisco
headed lower, eventually dropping to a low of $10 a share in 2002. According to technicians, no matter how good the fundamentals or how much you love the stock, when the stock breaks through its
support level on increasing volume, it’s time to sell.
Resistance: Sellers Win the Battle
When a stock’s price is rising, there will be certain places on the way up when sellers step in and prevent the stock from rising further. Resis-tance is the price level at which a stock’s price has stopped
rising and either is moving sideways or has reversed direction. The stock can’t go any higher. This is the point at which people, for whatever reason, sold their shares of stock. The sellers are in control.
There isn’t enough demand for the stock to rise any higher. An example of resistance is shown in Figure 11-9.
In this example, Boeing (BA) tried to break through resistance at $37 a share through the entire month of September. When this attempt was unsuccessful, it tried to break through $36 a share. Once again,
sellers prevented Boeing from going higher. It then retreated until it reached support at $29.
If Boeing had been able to break through $37 a share, technicians would have said that the stock “broke through resistance.” This indicates that a stock is strong and can be bought on the way up. It is
common for stocks to break through resistance and go much higher, especially in a bull market. (By the way, many professional traders wait until a stock
Technical analysts are constantly searching for stock patterns that will give them clues to what might happen in the future. One reason you repeatedly see the same stock patterns is that people tend to make
Warning: Although it is possible to find fantastic stock plays using technical analysis, it isn’t easy. For instance, a stock might break through resistance and move much higher. Right after you place your
buy order, however, the stock suddenly reverses course and drops 5 points! Although technical analysis seems easy on paper or when you read about it in a book, in real life it is harder to master than it
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breaks through support or resistance before making a trade.)
Introduction to Stock Patterns
same mistakes—for example, buying high and selling low. Stock pat-terns are one tool that technicians use to evaluate what the crowds are doing. In fact, so many patterns showed up regularly on the
Although these chart patterns will not absolutely tell you where a stock is headed, there are signals that technicians look for to help them decide when to buy or sell. In the hands of an expert, identifying
stock patterns can prevent disaster. Unfortunately, not many people can suc-cessfully recognize stock patterns until it’s too late. Nevertheless, that shouldn’t stop you from trying, since some patterns are
so obvious that
technicians began naming them.
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even a beginner can identify them in their early stages.
Head and Shoulders Pattern (Bearish)
Figure 11-10 Head and shoulders pattern
has stopped at the top of the trend, and it is about to reverse direction. Notice the head and the right and left shoulders. The point where the
Analysis: The stock moves higher but pulls back to form the left shoulder. It then moves higher to form the head, which seems bullish. It then falls back to its support level or neckline, which is the
alignment of the two support levels. The stock rises again to form the right shoul-der but fails to break resistance. Keep your eye on the neckline, because the stock is doomed in the short term if it breaks
below the neckline (which it did in Figure 11-10). The broken neckline confirms that the
Unlike the bearish head and shoulders pattern, the reverse head and shoulders is bullish. It is a mirror image of a head and shoulders pattern and shows that a bottom has been reached. In Figure 11-11,
shoulders meet is the neckline.
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upward trend of the stock has been reversed.
Reverse Head and Shoulders Pattern (Bullish)
stock moved strongly past the neckline on rising volume, it’s a good time to buy.
Analysis: The stock drops to $34.25, then reverses direction to form an inverted left shoulder. It then rallies until it hits resistance and retreats, forming the head at $34. Once again, the stock rises to resis-
tance and falls to $34.50, where it forms the inverted right shoulder. The stock then retreats briefly but reverses direction, breaking through resistance and advancing strongly. Once it breaks the neckline,
the stock is temporarily unstoppable.
Double Top (Bearish—Looks Like an M)
The double top is a common bearish pattern that shows two peaks at the same price level. The stock has twice failed to break through the resis-tance level; this indicates that you should switch from buying
on the upside to selling. When the stock tries to break through the top of the second leg, it will probably fail and sell off. The stock could consoli-date for weeks or months before breaking down. Figure 11-
12 is an example of a double top.
In this example, the stock falls sharply after twice failing to break resistance at $19.25 a share, forming the double top. Notice that a very bearish triple top has been formed at $18.75, setting this stock up
for a short-term fall. If you were a technician, you would sell your long posi-tion or sell this stock short.
Double Bottom (Bullish—Looks Like a W)
The double bottom is a very common bullish reverse pattern. The stock has failed to break through key support levels, indicating that you could switch from selling on the downside to buying on the
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upside. The stock could consolidate for weeks or months before break-ing out to the upside, however. Figure 11-13 is an example of a dou-ble bottom.
In the example, Coca-Cola falls to its support level of $44.90. The bulls think they are in control when the stock temporarily rises before
retreating to $44.90 a second time. Once again, support holds and the
an extremely profitable trader friend of mine who saw the head and shoul-
If you look closely at the 4-year chart of the Nasdaq in Figure 11-14, you will see two obvious patterns: a head and shoulders in April 2000 followed by a double top. Knowledgeable technical analysts
who saw these patterns should have seen a disaster looming! (In fact, many tech-
stock reverses direction. This time, however, Coca-Cola zooms past resistance and never looks back until it hits $45.50 a share. (By the way, if the stock retreats and holds support for a third time at
would make a triple bottom, an extremely bullish stock pattern.
How Chart Patterns Could Have Saved Your Portfolio
nical analysts missed or didn’t believe the signals. However,
ders formation immediately warned me, in April 2000, to sell all my
The Nasdaq formed a clear-cut double top pattern at 4200 but couldn’t break resistance. This gave observant traders a second chance to get out of the market. After failing to break 4200, it reversed direc-
tion, breaking support levels and making a series of lower lows. By now, the Nasdaq was doomed. Alert traders bailed out or, even better, sold short. You can see on the chart how many times the Nasdaq
ral-lied, only to fall further when the rally failed. These false rallies (called head fakes) can fool even many professional traders. In retrospect, it’s
In the above example, you can see the Nasdaq topping out in March 2000. It formed a head and shoulders pattern (as well as a double top), falling back to its neckline before breaking support near 4500
and eventually falling to 3500, where it temporarily held support. Many technicians (as well as many fundamental analysts) incorrectly called a
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stocks and mutual funds.)
easy to see the stock patterns, but in the heat of battle they are not that
9:30 a.m. On the Wednesday opening, IBM is said to have “gapped up” from its $85 closing price to $86 with no trades in between. Notice the strong volume in the stock on the gap up. In the short term,
probably because of positive news that was released after the market closed, buy-
In Figure 11-15, notice the gap or open space between the first Tues-day closing price at 4:00 p.m. and the first Wednesday opening price at
Gaps are simply open spaces in the stock pattern. For whatever reason (perhaps breaking news in the middle of the night), there was no trad-ing at a particular price level and the stock jumps—there is an
order imbalance between buy and sell orders. Gaps are significant because they indicate strong buying or selling demand. Figure 11-15 shows an
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example of a gap.
2. The continuation gap. This is similar to the breakaway gap except that it occurs in the middle of a price trend, not at the beginning. It’s possible that the stock will continue to make a strong move in
the same direction, just as with the breakaway gap. Figure 11-15
cians love to join breakaway gaps because they are so powerful.)
high volume. The stock will make a series of new highs. (Techni
Technicians have identified three types of gaps: continuation,
ers overwhelmed sellers, causing IBM to gap up. Notice that there was another gap up between Friday and Monday. Unfortunately, what goes up sometimes comes down. There is a noticeable 2-point
“gap down” at
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the market opening on the second Wednesday.
breakaway, and exhaustion.
1. The breakaway gap. This shows a stock gapping up strongly on
shows a continuation gap.
3. The exhaustion gap. This shows a stock that gaps up or down but doesn’t reach new highs or lows. As a result, it is likely that the price move will fail (or be exhausted), and the stock will immedi-
ately return to fill the gap (retreat to the earlier price). If you identify an exhaustion gap, get out as quickly as you can.
Some short-term traders are skilled at playing gaps. For example, if you were fast, you could have bought IBM on the market opening at $86 a share and sold it a few minutes later at $88, for a 2-point
gain. This is the kind of play that short-term traders live for. Unfortunately, many stocks will gap up or down and suddenly reverse direction to fill the gap. Keep in mind that trading on the basis of gaps is
a difficult maneuver that takes a lot of practice if it is to be successful.
For example, suppose that when the market opens for trading, the S&P or the Dow index has gapped up (or down) substantially from its previous close. Skilled technicians will “buy the gap up” but keep a
tight stop. Others will “fade the gap,” or trade in the opposite direction from the gap.
As mentioned in an earlier chapter, if you are a first-time trader, it’s best to avoid making trades as soon as the market opens. This is when professional traders dominate the market playing field, using
large sums of money to move stocks in one direction or the other. Making trades based on gaps is best left to the professionals.
Problems with Technical Analysis
Critics of technical analysis claim that reading stock charts is similar to telling your fortune using tea leaves. They claim that it’s impossible to make predictions about the future based on what happened in
the past. Tomorrow is all that matters, according to the critics. In addition, crit-ics claim that there is no proof that technical analysis actually works. Perhaps the only way to find out for sure is to try it for
yourself. Just like fundamental analysis, technical analysis is as much an art as a sci-ence. It takes an extremely competent and dedicated technician to find good stock picks using technical analysis.
Biography of Jesse Livermore
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One of the best known and most successful traders was Jesse Liv-ermore. While still a teenager, he quit school to become a “board boy” for a stock brokerage firm. (Before computers were invented, board boys
updated stock and bond prices on a large chalkboard.)
The story of Jesse Livermore’s life and the lessons he learned about trading can be found in his book, Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, originally published in 1923. Although the author is given as Edwin
Lefevre, many believe that Liver-more wrote the book himself. It is still one of the most popu-lar and valuable books ever written on speculating in the stock market.
Livermore spent much of his time trading in “bucket shops.” (Bucket shops are unlicensed brokerages; they have been de-scribed as “gambling dens.”) He was so successful at trading stocks that he was banned
from most bucket shops. He was forced to wear disguises and use fake names in order to trade. Nevertheless, this gave him the opportunity to watch how other traders manipulated the markets. After closely
studying the mar-kets, he created a successful rule-based trading system. As he became wealthier, Livermore made most of his trades from an elaborate secret office that was connected by telephone to the New
York Stock Exchange.
Much of the money that Livermore made came from short-ing stocks (he was famously bearish). He made a lot of enemies on his roller-coaster ride, and he was often opposed by some of the country’s most
influential financial leaders. Keep in mind that many of the tactics that Livermore used are now illegal, including manipulating stocks by using inside information and arranging with reporters to have incorrect
information published. (One of his tricks was to wait until he had made a profit on a stock, then reveal to an influential reporter that a particular stock was a great buy. When the stock went higher, he immediately
unloaded his position.)
Not long after making and losing his fourth million-dollar fortune, Livermore walked into a hotel hat check room and shot himself in the head. Although he had once been worth millions, dated glamorous
actresses, and owned a number of houses and boats, at the time of his death at age 63 his estate was reported to be worth less than $10,000.
In the next chapter, you will learn the tools and tactics that techni-cal analysts use to evaluate stocks.
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Technical Analysis:Tools and Tactics
Just as with fundamental analysis, there are tools that technical analysts use to determine when to buy or sell a stock. All of the tools explained in this chapter can be found on a stock chart (since
technicians study stock prices using charts). By the time you finish this chapter, you should have a better understanding of many of the tools and tactics used by technical analysts. For some people,
technical analysis can seem confusing. With practice, however, it should make more sense.
Volume: An Underestimated but Powerful Indicator
Volume shows how many shares changed hands during a given period. It is the fuel that drives stock prices higher or lower. By studying the volume of shares being traded, you can obtain clues as to
whether a stock is moving because of true buying or selling interest or other factors that could influence the direction of the stock.
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On-Balance Volume (OBV): A Measure of Volume
On-balance volume (OBV) is one of the most underutilized but impor-tant indicators. OBV measures volume, which, as you remember, is the force that makes stocks go up or down. When you put OBV
on a chart, a volume line appears at the bottom of the chart on top of the volume bars. OBV basically measures how much money is flowing into or out
If the OBV line is dropping, it tells you that people are selling. If the OBV line is rising, it tells you that people are buying. After all, no matter what is happening in the market, if people are pulling money
out of a stock, its price will go down. Conversely, if people are buying a
Because technical analysis is not an exact science, many traders use OBV to confirm what is happening with a stock. For example, let’s say that a stock is up by 3 points but the OBV is dropping. This tells
you that although the stock is temporarily going up, it’s not going to last.
of a security.
stock, its price will go up. Figure 12-2 gives an example of OBV.
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For whatever reason, people, most likely institutional investors, are selling. The dropping OBV is a signal that you should immediately sell the stock. In Figure 12-2, the OBV initially rose along with the
Cater-pillar stock price. In early December, the OBV was slowly dropping along with the Caterpillar stock price. This was a clear signal that, at least for the short term, institutional investors were selling
One of the biggest problems with technical analysis is that you sometimes get false signals. OBV helps you determine whether the buying and selling pressure is real or whether a reversal is imminent. For
example, let’s say that the price of a stock is falling but OBV is ris-ing. An alert trader will buy, not sell, because it’s possible that the stock price will reverse as more buyers accumulate shares.
Relative Strength Indicator: A Measure of Whether Stocks Are Overbought or Oversold
The relative strength indicator (RSI) measures the relative strength or weakness of a stock when it is compared to itself over a specified period. It is an oscillator with an upper and lower band that ranges
from 0 to 100 on a vertical scale. An example of the RSI is given in Figure 12-3.
To understand the RSI, you need to know what is meant by relative strength and relative weakness, two of the most important concepts in technical analysis. Relative strength means that a stock is strong
com-pared to another stock or to an index. For example, if the Nasdaq is falling but Bright Light is rising, then Bright Light is strong relative to the Nasdaq. (From a technical viewpoint, stocks with
relative strength are good buys.) Conversely, if the Nasdaq is going up but Bright Light is dropping in price, then Bright Light has relative weakness. (Gener-ally, you avoid buying stocks with relative
When used in conjunction with other technical indicators such as moving averages and OBV, the RSI is a powerful tool that can help to identify whether a stock is overbought or oversold. This allows you
to determine which stocks are going to run out of energy and succumb to the bears (overbought). On the other hand, the RSI will also help you to identify stocks that have fallen and are about to reverse
and move higher (oversold).
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For example, if the stock price is dropping, but the RSI rises above 70 and then crosses back down, this is a sign that the stock might reverse direction (this price reversal is called divergence). Conversely,
if the stock price is rising, but the RSI drops below 30 and crosses back up, the stock might reverse. The idea is that the stock price will eventu-ally move in the direction of the RSI.
In Figure 12-3, the RSI dropped as low as 20 twice in the last year, signaling that Caterpillar might be oversold. For example, in August the RSI fell to 20 and crossed back up, and the stock immediately
reversed direction. Then, in October, the RSI again fell to 20 and crossed back up. Note what happened to Caterpillar—the stock reversed its downtrend and began a strong rally that continued for a month.
If you are critical of technical analysis, you can argue that the RSI generated a series of short-term signals, some of which were unclear. This is why it’s so important to use the RSI in conjunction with
other technical indicators. On the other hand, the RSI did work flawlessly in the end, identifying that Caterpillar was oversold and would eventually
Like the RSI, Bollinger bands are an oscillator that helps traders iden-tify whether a stock is overbought or oversold. Bollinger bands have two lines, an upper and a lower band with a gap between them
that expands or contracts as the stock price moves. You should keep your eye on the third line in the middle. This is called the price indicator, and where it goes signals whether a stock is about to reverse
Technicians look for a number of signals when using Bollinger bands. First, if the two outer bands move so close together that they are almost touching (narrow), this is a signal that there could be a
sudden move in the stock price, either up or down. Second, if the price indicator
reverse its downtrend.
Bollinger Bands: Another Measure of Whether Stocks Are Overbought or Oversold
example of Bollinger bands is given in Figure 12-4.
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is pushed well outside the upper or lower band, this means that there is strong buying or selling activity. Many times, a stock will ride the upper or lower band for minutes or hours and then cross through.
Often, if the price indicator begins in one band, it will cross to the other band. This tells you that in the next few minutes, or perhaps hours, the stock price will reverse direction.
The good news is that in the hand of an expert, technical indicators like Bollinger bands are extremely useful. The bad news is that the indi-cators change so quickly that they are useful primarily to short-
term traders. As always, you should experiment and practice before risking real money on technical indicators or oscillators.
One of the problems with technical analysis is that it is extremely diffi-cult to read the signals correctly. If all it took to be successful in the market were sophisticated oscillators and indicators, then most
people would use only technical analysis. Although most investors should have a basic understanding of how to read charts and how to use technical indicators like moving averages, this probably won’t
help for long-term investments. After all, technical analysis is most useful for short-term decisions.
Although charting stocks can be fun and profitable, you must also be careful to keep it simple. Many traders find that the more indicators they use on a chart, the more confused they get. It is what one
trader friend of mine calls “analysis paralysis.” You spend so much time studying charts that you don’t make trades. Keep it simple—the less complicated the information on your chart, the better.
Speculating on Commodities and
The futures exchanges were created to provide a market for pork bellies, hogs, cattle, corn, and hundreds of other commodities. A futures contract is simply an agreement that requires the holder to buy or sell a
commodity at a predetermined price during a specified period of time. For only 10 percent down, you can speculate on commodities for the chance to make a small for-tune. It is not uncommon for speculators to
make as much as $100,000 or more in a day while risking no more than $10,000.
Although the odds are better than those at gambling, it is estimated that over 95 percent of the people who trade futures lose money—and these are the people who supposedly know what they’re doing. In addition,
you could easily lose more than what you started with.
At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (the Merc) in Chicago, Illinois, traders verbally announce the order and price and keep shouting until the order is filled. In addition, they use hand sig-nals to communicate with
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learn where the crowds are investing.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index
The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX) is an index that measures the volatility of the U.S. stock market by tracking S&P 100 option contracts. When you use the VIX as a contrarian
indi-cator, the higher the VIX goes (because option buyers are bearish), the more likely it is that the market will reverse and go higher. Conversely, when the VIX goes lower (because option buyers are
bullish), it is more likely that the market will go lower. The more extreme the VIX reading, the more likely it is that the market will reverse direction.
It probably seems confusing that if option buyers are bullish, according to the VIX, the market will go lower, and if option buyers are bearish, the market could go higher. The reason is that 90 percent of
option traders lose money, so according to this theory, the chances are good that if you do the opposite of what most option traders do, you will do well. That’s why the VIX is called a contrarian indicator.
The VIX usually stays in a range between 20 and 30. Historically, when the VIX is well above 30, option traders are bearish (if you look at the stock market, you will notice that the market is going down).
Conversely, when the VIX drops below 20, option traders are bullish (the rising market reflects their enthusiasm). Using the VIX as an indi-cator, when options are too bullish or too bearish, the market is
likely to reverse direction. (There’s an old saying: When the VIX is low, it’s time to go. When the VIX is high, it’s time to buy.)
If you look at the chart in Figure 13-1, you’ll notice that in early 2000, at the peak of the bull market, the VIX dropped as low as 18 (because option traders believed that the market was going higher). It
wasn’t long before the market topped out and the economy began a long and slow descent into a bear market.
Conversely, right after September 11, 2001, the VIX went as high as 50 as investors panicked because of terrorism concerns. It turned out to be an ideal time to buy stocks, at least in the short term. Like
any technical tool, the VIX is by no means foolproof. The VIX often stays at one level for months, giving no clue to what investors are feeling.
Many people use the media as a contrarian indicator. In other words, by the time something is reported in the media, you better do the opposite. For example, a few years ago, guests appeared on television
and on the radio gushing about the “new economy,” the unstoppable stock market, and the popularity of the Internet. This was a clear sign that the markets might reverse. After we made it to the new
millennium (remember Y2K?) without a stock market crash or a computer meltdown, most people thought that the worst was behind us. Little did they know that, at least from an investment perspective,
the worst was yet to come.
For another popular contrarian signal, look in the financial period-ical Barron’s for the Investor’s Intelligence reading, which surveys newsletter writers. If newsletter writers are overwhelmingly bullish
(over 55 or 60 percent), this is a bearish sign. Conversely, if newsletter writers are overwhelmingly bearish, this is a bullish sign.
Mutual Fund Redemptions
You can learn a lot by keeping an eye out for increased mutual fund redemptions (which means that individual investors are selling their mutual funds). This will give you a clue as to what the crowds are
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think-ing. The financial newspaper Investor’s Business Daily regularly mea-sures mutual fund redemptions. In addition, the business section of most daily newspapers lets you know what mutual fund
investors are doing with their money.
There are two ways to look at increased mutual fund redemptions. On the one hand, it is bearish because if investors are pulling their money out of the market at any price, it will force fund managers to
sell shares of the stocks that they hold. On the other hand, it is bullish because it sets the market up for the next phase, capitulation, which creates a market bottom.
Capitulation refers to what happens when everyone in the market pan-ics and immediately sells all of their stocks, causing a stock crash. The theory behind capitulation is that after everyone sells their
stocks and mutual funds in a panic, the market hits bottom, with nowhere to go but up. In addition, anyone who has cash comes in to buy unloved stocks at fire-sale prices. If there is capitulation, the
markets will fall by huge amounts—10 percent or more in one day.
Investors have capitulated twice in the twentieth century, in 1929 (with the market eventually falling 89 percent from its high) and in 1987 (with the market plummeting by over 20 percent in one day).
Nevertheless, it took only a year and a half for the market to recover from the 1987 crash. After the crash of 1929, however, it took 25 years for the market to return to its precrash level. Although the
chances are good that investors will again capitulate one day (a dra-matic and tragic event that could send people fleeing from the mar-kets), if history is any guide, if you can keep your head and not panic,
you will hopefully see this as a buying opportunity.
Stock Market Scams
Since we just finished talking about what could go wrong in the stock market, this is a good time to make you aware of two of the most common stock scams.
The Pump and Dump
The pump and dump is one of the easiest and most common ways of taking money away from unsuspecting investors. Although it is illegal, the use of the pump and dump has actually increased because the
Internet has made it possible to reach millions more people. Here’s how the pump and dump works.
First, company insiders try to convince outsiders to buy a stock, usually the stock of a small over-the-counter company. Investors are led to believe that this is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to make a small
fortune. The fraudsters will pump up interest in the stock by sending messages through Internet chat rooms, attempting to go on television or radio, or posting overly optimistic press releases. Before the Internet,
pump and dumpers used to call people on the telephone. The idea is to artificially pump up the price of a stock by spreading false news. The stock price rises because of increased buying and speculation, not
because of anything positive happening in the company.
As the stock goes higher, those with inside knowledge are prepared for the “dump.” As more people buy shares of the stock, the insiders sell all their shares for a huge profit. Eventually, the truth comes out, and the
stock price falls as more people sell. Guess who is left holding the shares of the now nearly worthless stock? You guessed it—the unsuspecting investors who bought into the hype. They probably thought the price
could go higher, so they never sold their shares.
The pump and dump is one of the oldest and most effective scams. Usually, pump and dumps are used on small stocks sell-ing for between $1 and $5 a share because it is easier for pump-and-dumpers to
manipulate the stock price with smaller stocks.
There are actually two types of insider trading: legal and illegal. Legal insider trading is that done by company employees (insid-ers) who file proper paperwork with the SEC before buying and selling shares in
their company. These documents are available for viewing on the SEC Web site.
On the other hand, illegal insider trading occurs when com-pany employees buy and sell stocks based on information that is not known to the public. For example, it’s illegal for the man-agers of Bright Light to
buy additional shares of stock in the company if they know that a revolutionary new product is about to be released. It’s even illegal for you to buy shares of stock in that situation if company insiders (perhaps your
neighbor) tell you about it.
Do you think insider trading is common? It certainly is; it occurs a lot more often than many people think. Every once in a while the SEC catches a celebrity just to make a point that it’s watching. Nevertheless, it’s
my estimate that thousands of insiders are using information gleaned from the companies they work for to make profitable transactions. It’s an open secret on Wall Street that those in the know are trading stocks on
In the next chapter, you will find out why stocks go up or down, which will help you determine if and when to participate in the market.
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On the other hand, when the dollar is falling and is weak against other currencies, foreigners pull their money out of our stock market. (Basically, they get hit twice, once when their U.S. stocks fall in
price, and again when they lose money on the currency.) As the dollar falls, the stock market tends to go down in price. This is also not a good time to travel overseas, as it will be more expensive. Perhaps
the only positive thing that comes from a weak dollar is that foreigners can now afford to buy our goods and services, which pleases American manufacturers.
If you are in the markets, keep your eye on the strength or weakness of the dollar. If you see the dollar falling, as it did in 2002, this is a clue that foreign investors may get spooked and begin pulling their
money out of our stock market.
Inflation simply refers to how much the prices of the goods and ser-vices that you buy go up each year. It is usually written as a percentage. When you study economics, you hear a lot about inflation. One
of the reasons that people invest in the stock market is to try to beat inflation.
For example, suppose inflation is currently at 1 percent. That means that it will cost you 1 percent more than the year before to buy goods and services. When you go shopping, you find that groceries, cars,
and home appliances have gone up in price from the year before. Because of inflation, the McDonald’s hamburger that cost you 10 cents in 1959 now costs you $1.20. A seat at the movies that cost 25
cents back in 1960 now costs $10.00! Now that is inflation!
Too much inflation is not good for the economy, which is why the markets don’t like it. It means that people are getting less for their dollars. Conversely, low inflation is good for consumers be-cause they
can afford to borrow, charge purchases on credit cards, and buy houses. The more consumers spend, the better it is for the economy.
Economists are generally pleased if inflation remains at no more than 3 or 4 percent, although in 1980 inflation went as high as 18 per-cent. In addition, the Fed responds by raising interest rates, which
restricts the flow of money into the economy. In periods of inflation, the price of investments such as certificates of deposit (CDs) and money market accounts rises (when the Fed raises interest rates to
combat inflation, fixed-income investments that are dependent on interest rates move higher).
One of the reasons that investing in the stock market is a good idea is that historically the market has returned 11 percent a year, handily beating inflation. Of course, there is no guarantee that the stock
market will come close to returning 11 percent this year or next. On the other hand, if you see inflation rising, that could be a clue for you to move some of your money out of the market and into alterna-
tive investments to stocks like a money market account or short-term Treasuries.
The government has ways to measure whether the prices of goods and servicesarerisingorfalling.Forexample,theconsumerpriceindex(CPI) measures changes in everyday prices like those of food, housing,
and clothing.Somepeoplerefertoitasthe“inflationnumber”orthe“cost-of-living” index. If the CPI goes up, this means that inflation is rising.
The producer price index (PPI) determines whether inflation is ris-ing or falling by measuring the prices of commodities, including raw materials like steel and aluminum. If the prices of raw materials are
going up, consumers will ultimately pay more at the supermarket and the gas station.
In addition to the CPI and PPI reports, the U.S. Department of Labor issues the closely watched unemployment report. The results of this report directly influence the stock market. If the unemployment
rate is low—under 6 percent—there are many jobs available. If the unemployment rate is high—over 6 percent—the job market is tight and it’s hard to find jobs. On the day these reports are released, the
mar-ket reacts in unpredictable ways. In general, the market likes to see low CPI and PPI numbers and a decrease in unemployment.
There are many other reports released by the government that are watched closely by investors and traders. For example, the gross domes-tic product (GDP) is a quarterly report that measures the quantity
of goods and services being produced in our economy. The GDP is a use-ful but broad barometer of how the economy is doing. The higher the GDP (expressed as a percentage), the faster the economy is
growing. If GDP is growing by more than 3 percent, the economy is on the right track. If GDP is negative, either the economy is not growing or we could be in a recession (defined as two or more quarters
of negative GDP).
Deflation: An Unusual Nightmare
To understand deflation, let’s review what we mean by inflation. When the price of goods rises each year, when everything costs more, this is inflation. Deflation, on the other hand, can be defined as an
economic condition in which the supply of money and credit is reduced. Although inflation is common, deflation is quite rare in the United States (Japan, however, has been in a deflationary environment
To the uninformed, deflation seems like a good thing. The prices of nearly everything fall as the supply of goods piles up. Manufacturers are forced to cut prices even further to entice shoppers to buy. On
the other hand, companies cut employees, real estate prices fall (because borrowers cannot pay back their loans), and the stock market goes through a rough period. Prices are low, but few people have the
money to buy anything. Those who do have money tend to wait for prices to drop even further.
For a worst-case scenario of what could happen in a deflationary crash, read Robert Prechter’s book Conquer the Crash (John Wiley & Sons, 2002). One of the best ways to protect yourself against defla-
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tion is to get out of debt. That means paying off your credit cards, your car loans, and your mortgage (although you should talk to a tax adviser before doing the last of these). In addition, force yourself to
save more. If we really do have a deflationary crash, those with the most cash will prosper. Because deflation is rare in the United States, there is no need to panic—at least, not yet. Just keep a close eye on
economic conditions and be prepared to act if things get dicey.
Politics: The Government Influences the Stock Market
The actions of the president and Congress affect the stock market. Whether it is a major presidential speech, higher taxes, or a new law, how the market reacts depends on how Wall Street interprets the
news. After all, the market is based more on perception and psychology than reality. Politics is so intertwined with the financial markets that it would take a political scientist to explain it all.
Other Reasons Stocks Go Up or Down
The most obvious reason that a stock goes up or down has to do with how much money the corporation makes. If a company is making money or might make money in the future, more people will buy shares of its
stock. The name of the game is supply and demand.
Because of supply and demand, when there are more buyers than sellers, the stock price will go up. If there are more sellers than buyers, the stock price will go down. This is Capitalism 101, the heart of our
financial system. (Just think of all the books you no longer have to read.) At the end of each market day, many financial experts will try to explain why the market went up or down, but their explanations often have
little to do with what really happened.
Often stocks go up or down based primarily on people’s per-ceptions. This is why so many corporations spend a lot of money on advertising and on actions that will bring them positive pub-licity. This is also why
some shareholders send out emails to strangers or post messages in Internet chat rooms to try to con-vince people to buy more stock.
Stocks also go up or down depending on the mood of the country and the state of the economy. Once again, a lot is based on perception. If people believe that economic conditions are improving and the country is
on the right track, they will be more inclined to invest in the stock market. Conversely, the recent bear market has continued because people are wary of the direction of the country, the increased threat of terrorism
and war, and a feel-ing that we were in a recession.
In the next chapter, you will learn where to go (and whom to avoid) for investment advice.
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If you make so much money on a stock that you are nearly giddy (called the high-five effect), sell 30 percent of your winnings. By doing so, you lock in at least a portion of your gains, and you can
reevaluate your portfolio later. As traders like to say, “You can’t go broke taking a profit.”
Mistake #3:You Get Too Emotional about Your Stock Picks
Inability to control their emotions is the main reason why most people should not participate in the stock market. When investing in the mar-ket with substantial money at stake, many people are flooded
with emo-tions that compel them to make the wrong decisions. In fact, becoming too emotional about your investments is a clue that you could lose money. Making money should be as boring as waiting
in line at the supermarket.
A common problem, and one that especially afflicts those who have tasted success in the market, is overconfidence. Although some self-confidence is necessary if you are going to invest in the market,
allowing your ego to get in the way of your investing is a dangerous sign. One of the reasons the bull market was destined to end so abruptly was that too many people were making too much money and
thought they were geniuses. An old but true saying is, “There are no geniuses in a bull market.” The point is that people thought they were geniuses, but in fact they were just being carried by the strength
of a bull market.
Before the bull market’s abrupt end, many investors got so greedy that they couldn’t think straight. They were convinced that the good times would last forever. The signs of greed were everywhere:
q A 15-year-old boy, Jonathon Lebed, made a million dollars pump-ing and dumping penny stocks. The SEC allowed him to keep half his profits.
q The CEOs of dozens of companies were paid hundreds of millions of dollars in salary and compensation, even though their compa
nies were losing money. (Many made their millions through stock options, which although legal, did not seem fair to shareholders who lost money.)
q Thousands of people were quitting their jobs to become day traders.
q Stock prices in companies that had no earnings were doubling and tripling each day.
q Many mutual funds were going up by over 100 percent a year.
q Books with titles like Dow 36,000 and Dow 100,000 were best-sellers, along with many books on day trading.
q Stock analysts and CEOs were treated like rock stars.
q Car dealers couldn’t sell SUVs fast enough, it seemed as though everyone was going to Europe, Starbucks was filled with people starting investment clubs, and people couldn’t keep their eyes
off financial television programs like CNBC, Bloomberg, and CNNfn.
As the Dow and the Nasdaq plummeted, greed was replaced by hope. In the award-winning movie The Shawshank Redemption, the movie character Red (played by Morgan Freeman) said, “Hope is a
dangerous thing.” In love as in life, there is always hope that things will work out in the end, but in the stock market, hope can destroy your portfolio. If the only reason you are holding onto a stock is
because of hope (and not for fundamental or technical reasons), you are going to lose money.
The famous speculator Jesse Livermore once said, “People are hopeful when they should be afraid and are afraid when they should be hopeful.” Livermore understood the short-term psychology of the
mar-kets about as well as anyone.
The most profitable traders and investors are unemotional about the stocks they buy. They don’t rely on fear, greed, or hope when they make trading decisions; they look only at technical and fundamental
data. In 1929 and 1987, there was real fear in the stock market. People thought that their stocks were going to zero, and they wanted to get out of the market at any price. Just when people thought that all
was lost, 1987 turned out to be the start of a particularly strong market. In 2000, on the other hand, people were much too hopeful when they really should have been afraid.
Mistake #4:You Bet All Your Money on Only One or Two Stocks
One of the problems with investing directly in the stock market is that most people don’t have enough money to maintain a properly diversi-fied portfolio. (In general, no one stock should make up more
than 10 percent of your portfolio.) Although diversification limits your upside gains, it also protects you in case one of your investments does badly.
If you can’t afford to buy more than one or two stocks, you have several choices. First, you can buy mutual funds, especially index funds, which allow you to buy the entire market for a fraction of what it
would cost if you bought each stock in the index. Second, you can hire a certified investment adviser to manage your portfolio and help you to diversify.
If you feel that you must bet all your money on only one or two stocks, then buy stocks in conservative companies with low P/Es (less than 10) that pump up their returns with quarterly dividends. You
want stocks in companies that are so good that they will be profitable for years.
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If you are a short-term trader (or perhaps a gambler), making big bets on one or two stocks can pay off big. For example, some traders focus on one stock, perhaps an exchange-traded fund (ETF) like
QQQ, Dia-monds (DIA), or SPDRs. When you become an expert on only one investment, you have a better idea of when to buy and sell it. Obviously, this strategy is better suited to traders than to
It is also true that if you bet all your money on one stock and you win, you can make a small fortune. However, using this strategy is more akin to gambling than to investing. Although the odds are better
than in Las Vegas, it is still risky to bet everything on one investment. To protect yourself, you might be better off betting all your money on a successful mutual fund than on one stock.
Mistake #5:You Are Unable to Be Both Disciplined and Flexible
Almost every professional investor will rightly claim that a lack of dis-cipline is the main reason that most people lose money in the market. If you are disciplined, you have a strategy, a plan, and a set of
rules, and no matter what you are feeling, you stick to your strategy, plan, and rules. Discipline means having the knowledge to know what to do (the easy part) and the willpower and courage to actually
do it (the hard part). It means that you have to stick to your strategy and obey your rules. This has always worked for successful investors and mutual fund managers.
Although the pros are right in claiming that you need discipline if you are to be successful in the market, you also need to balance this with a healthy dose of flexibility. Some investors were so rigidly
disci-plined about sticking with their stock strategy that they didn’t react when the market and their stocks turned against them. In the name of discipline, many investors went down with the sinking ship.
Discipline is essential, but you must be realistic enough to realize that you could be wrong. You have to be flexible enough to change your strategy, your plan, and your rules, especially if you are losing
money. For every rule and strategy, there are exceptions. It takes a really exceptional investor to be both disciplined and flexible.
Mistake #6:You Don’t Learn from Your Mistakes
Most experienced investors and traders know that you learn more from your losers than from your winners. One of the worst things that hap-pened to many novice investors in the late 1990s was that they
made money in the market too quickly and easily. When the easy money stopped and the market plunged, many of them had no idea what to do next. Why? They didn’t know how it felt to lose money.
Because they had made money the wrong way, they were destined to give it all back. Losing money can be good for you (as long as you don’t lose all of it).
It is worth losing a little money in the market today to protect yourself from losing a fortune tomorrow.
If you lose more than 10 percent in the market, there are a few things you can do. Instead of burying your head in the sand, take the time to understand your mistakes. It’s not useful to make excuses and
act as if your stock losses are only paper losses that will be made up in the future. In the market, everything doesn’t always work out in the end. Accept the loss and make sure you don’t make the same
Next, closely review your investment strategy. You should study the entire market environment and analyze each of the stocks you are hold-ing. If your investments don’t hold up based on technical and
funda-mental analysis, you might want to make changes to your portfolio.
Mistake #7:You Listen to or Get Tips from the Wrong People
If your eyes glaze over when you read about fundamental or technical analysis, there is a simpler way to find stocks to buy—stock tips. The beauty of tips is that you can make money without doing any
work. If this sounds too good to be true, it is.
In fact, one of the easiest ways to lose money in the market is by lis-tening to tips, especially if they come from well-meaning but unin-formed relatives or acquaintances. These people often become
cheerleaders for a stock, trying to convince you to buy it. Because it’s hard to say no to easy money (especially when the tip comes from a trusted source), there are some steps you can take to limit your
First, you should never act on a tip before doing fundamental or technical research. One look at a stock chart should give you a good idea as to whether the stock is a loser. As I reported before, most peo-
ple spend more time researching a new television than a stock. Many people wouldn’t think twice about spending $20,000 on a stock tip but will spend a month researching a $200 television set. If you do
receive a “can’t lose” tip that is impossible to resist, buy in small quantities— no more than 100 shares. If the tip turns out to be a dud (and it proba-bly will), you’ve lost only a little money, and you’ve
also learned a valuable lesson.
Should you get your stock picks from experts? Don’t forget that most of the experts who appeared on television or were quoted in mag-azines were terrible stock pickers. Analysts lied, economists
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misjudged the economy, CEOs were overly optimistic, and accounting firms fudged the numbers to make losing companies look like winners.
At the same time, greedy and lazy investors (and we’re almost all guilty) must take responsibility for buying stocks based on tips. (“Everyone wanted to be a player but we ended up being played.”) The
best advice I ever received on the market was also the simplest: Keep your ears shut.
Mistake #8:You Follow the Crowd
Do you want to lose money? Then do what everyone else is doing. Unfortunately, it is excruciatingly difficult to think differently from everyone else. If you study the lives of some of the greatest traders
and investors in the recent past, you will find that they often made their for-tunes by doing the opposite of what the crowd was doing. That means buying when other people are selling and selling when
other people are buying.
If you study the psychology of group behavior, you find many peri-ods and events in history that attest to herd mentality—or the “madness of crowds,” as one author put it. Although the crowds can win,
they don’t win for long. As mentioned earlier, the signal that a bull market is ending is that it seems as though everyone is in the market. Conversely, a signal of a bear market’s end is that people are too
afraid to invest in the market. When almost everyone is avoiding the stock market, and it seems like perhaps the worst possible time to invest, the bear market will end. Unfortunately, no one rings a bell to
announce the end. You have to figure it out for yourself.
So how do you think differently from the crowd? You can start by taking a look at strategies that most people don’t use. For example, you could buy covered call options on stocks you own, trade ETFs, or
short stocks. Although these strategies are not recommended for average investors, those of you who have the time to do additional research may find that taking a different approach can be profitable.
Unfortunately, once everyone finds out about them, many strategies cease to work. (For example, strategies like the “January effect,” where you sell your stocks in early December and buy them back in
January, worked for years—that is, until it was widely reported in the media.)
Keep in mind that perceptions about the market change very rap-idly. From a state of near euphoria about the market, the crowd has become ornery and pessimistic. A few clues: The public’s interest in
books about the stock market has declined; many people no longer want to talk about the market except to tell you how much money they lost; and many people are showing the effects of a reverse wealth
effect, as seen in a decline in the sales of boats, SUVs, and other luxury items. If you are a contrarian, when the public has thrown in the towel, you’ll begin to look for buying opportunities.
Mistake #9:You Aren’t Prepared for the Worst
Before you get into the market, you should be prepared, not scared. Although you should always hope for the best, you must be prepared for the worst. The biggest mistake many investors make is thinking
that their stocks won’t go down. They are not prepared for an extended bear market, a recession, deflation, a market crash, or an unanticipated event that will ruin the market. Even if you don’t expect a
financial disaster, create a “crash-proof ” plan based on logic and common sense, not fear. Here are a few steps you can take to protect your portfolio:
1. Move more of your money into cash. When you are in cash (including Treasury bills if the economy gets really terrifying), it’s easy to make unemotional decisions about where to put your
money next. Cash is a comfortable place to be when the economy is struggling and the market is falling. Temporarily waiting on the sidelines in cash until the market recovers can be a wise
move. If the market really does capitulate (or we get locked into a defla-tionary nightmare), one way to win is to be flush with cash when stocks are selling at bargain-basement prices.
2. Trade less. If you are a trader, you should limit the number of shares that you trade. As it becomes more difficult to make money in the market, some people mistakenly try to win back their lost
profits. Greed is more powerful than fear, which is why some people will mortgage the house for a chance to get rich quickly. If you must trade, trade with less.
3. Study more. If we do enter into a lengthy bear market, use the time to study the markets, read books, and brush up on funda-mental and technical analysis. When the market does come back (it
always does eventually), you’ll be prepared with a handful of new stock picks.
Mistake #10:You Miss Out or Mismanage Money
Managing money is a difficult skill for most people, but it’s one of the most important skills to have. Unfortunately, if you can’t manage money, you’re destined to have financial problems (unless you hire
someone to manage it for you). In the end, it’s not how much you make but how much you keep that matters. Do you want to know the secret to making money in the stock market or with any investment?
Don’t lose money. (Don’t laugh—it’s true.) If you think about it long enough, you’ll realize that this makes a lot of sense. Obviously, it’s not easy to find investments where you don’t lose money, but that
shouldn’t stop you from trying.
Just as harmful as mismanaging money is missing out on money-making opportunities. A little bit of fear keeps you on your toes, but too much fear can cause you to miss out on profitable investments or
trades. It’s the fear of loss that prevents many people from buying at the bottom. It’s the fear of missing out on higher profits that prevents peo-ple from selling before it’s too late. Usually, fear results from
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a lack of information. That is why it’s essential that you do your own research when a financial opportunity comes your way. This gives you an oppor-tunity to make an informed decision based on the
facts, not on emotion.
Obviously, you aren’t privy to all the information that you need in order to be 100 percent right. You have to make a decision based on the best information you have at the time. Many times you’ll be
One of my friends calls it the “Swiss cheese principle.” Often, you don’t have enough information to make a completely risk-free decision, but you still must act. There are so many holes—or missing
pieces of information—that you can only wonder if you are making the right decision. The fear of losing prevents some people from making any decision at all. And yet, you still must act.
The Dutch Tulip Bulb Mania*
A bubble is a phenomenon in which investors and traders buy stocks or other items at such a feverish pace that the market rises to irrational levels. The buyers seem to be under a mass delusion that the market will
only go higher. Before long, speculators hop-ing for quick profits jump in, creating a mania. Eventually, investors come back to their senses, causing a selling panic. There have been a handful of bubbles in history,
all of which have ended quite badly for investors.
One of the most spectacular bubbles in history occurred in Holland in the seventeenth century. In 1635 people were sud-denly willing to pay any amount in order to own a single tulip bulb. These bulbs had become
status symbols for the rich and famous. Some bulbs were beautiful mutations, what the Dutch called “bizarres” (Famous Financial Fiascos, by John Train). Speculators would buy one, then immediately sell it for a
As the tulip mania increased, speculators pushed the prices higher. For example, to buy one exotic tulip bulb, you would have to exchange several horses, pigs, bread, a carriage, tons of cheese, beer, and house
furnishings (using today’s exchange rate, well over $200,000). Many investors were more than willing to trade their houses or valuable paintings for one tulip bulb. There was always a bigger fool willing to pay a
higher price for the bulb. The entire country got swept up in the mania.
*Some of the text used in this sidebar originally appeared in my first book, 101 Investment Lessons by the Wizards of Wall Street (Career Press, 1999).
As with most bubbles, most people didn’t know they’re in one until it was too late. At the time, people thought the tulips were wise investments that would last forever. In one sense, the craving for tulip bulbs
nearly lasted forever. Today, the Dutch export millions of dollars worth of tulip bulbs to other coun-tries—but at more reasonable prices.)
This bubble popped rather abruptly and dramatically. People stopped and looked around and wondered how anyone could pay that much for an exotic flower. It was similar to a game of musi-cal chairs when the
music stops. People who only a few months before hadn’t been able to buy the tulip bulbs fast enough now couldn’t sell them in time. Family fortunes were wiped out, there was widespread panic, and the Dutch
The closest the U.S. stock market came to a bubble occurred during the Internet mania. It seemed as if the entire country was deluded into thinking that every Internet stock would go up. Companies like Excite at
Home, Pets.com, HomeGrocer.com, and hundreds of others were bid up to ridiculously high valua-tions. At the time, some Internet companies with no earnings had a higher market cap than some of the largest
corporations in America.
Just like the tulip bubble, the Internet bubble ended abruptly. Investors also looked around and wondered how they could have paid so much for companies with little or no earnings. Some peo-ple are still holding
shares of Internet companies that may never come back to even.
In the next chapter, you will learn my thoughts about the stock market.
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Don’t Trust Earnings Estimates
I can’t tell you what a company will earn in the next quarter, let alone the next year. There is no way you can tell me that a company is going to be profitable in 5 or 10 years. It amazes me that people act
as if they know for a fact how much a company is going to earn in the future. In the past, we depended on accounting firms to certify that the numbers coming from companies were truthful. Once we
discovered that there was a conflict of interest between the accounting firms and the audited companies, we couldn’t believe anyone’s numbers. We’re hoping that Wall Street, the accounting firms, and
CEOs will give us numbers that we can trust in the future. Until then, let the buyer beware. (It takes extraordinary intuition and information to find out what is really going on behind the scenes at many
Use Both Technical and Fundamental Analysis
Nearly every book written on the stock market assumes that you will choose between technical and fundamental analysis when deciding what stocks to buy. Guess what? You can use both methods. If you
are an investor, you can learn a lot by looking at a stock chart, using tech-nical indicators, and looking at stock patterns. At the same time, you should not buy a stock unless you are convinced that the
company’s fundamentals are strong. No matter which method you use, you don’t want to overpay for the stock.
By using both fundamental and technical analysis, you can study both the company and its stock price. Although there are advantages and disadvantages of using either method, in the end, you have to
decide which works best for you. By learning both technical and fun-damental analysis, not only will you become a more knowledgeable investor or trader, but you will also have more tools in your
toolbox. This could give you an edge over other market participants. Rather than choosing one method or the other, be eclectic.
Losing (a Little) Money Can Be Educational
One of the worst things that happened to many people during the last bull market was that they got the idea that it was easy to beat the mar-ket. Before they had a chance to cash in their winnings, most of
their profits had disappeared. If you lose money in the stock market (or in any other financial endeavor), turn this event into an educational expe-rience. Losing money has a number of benefits:
1. It forces you to analyze what you did wrong. Determine whether the strategies you (or your financial adviser) are using are on the right track.
2. It tests your character. If you crunch keyboards or throw things around when you lose money, you had better change investment strategies. Successful investing and trading is not supposed to
be exciting—the pros take their gains and losses in stride.
3. It forces you to be disciplined. Everyone always talks about the importance of discipline, and there’s nothing like losing money to make you realize that you lack it. You failed to limit your
losses or protect your winnings.
4. It forces you to take action. When you lose money in the market, you have a choice: You can keep repeating the same mistakes, or you can find out what you’re doing wrong. You learn nothing
if you ignore the truth. If you find out what you’re doing wrong, you always have a chance to get it right the next time.
Get Your Finances in Order
In my opinion, you shouldn’t consider investing in the market until you’ve taken care of some other important details. Here are a few ideas:
1. The first investment you should make is in your home.
2. After buying a house, buy a mutual fund. This will give you ataste of how the stock market operates. If you have a chance toopen up a 401(k) or an IRA, do so. Earning tax-free money
caneventually make you wealthy.
3. If you have any money left over, invest a portion in the stockmarket.
4. Your lifelong goal should be to reduce or eliminate debt. It’s amazing how quickly your money grows when you are not tied down with unwanted debt, like credit card bills and car payments. (I
don’t even like mortgage payments, but you had better speak to a tax adviser before making that move.)
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Buying and Holding Isn’t for Everyone
In my opinion, you should not simply buy a stock and hold it indefi-nitely. For over 60 years, investors have been brainwashed into using this simple but ineffective strategy. Let’s try to understand why
buy and hold is so popular.
First, there has been a massive public relations campaign by Wall Street to lure people into buying and holding stocks. If the market is going up, you buy because you could miss out on the next bull
market. If the market is going down, you buy because stock prices are so cheap.
When the public invests in the market, it keeps people on Wall Street employed. That is why so few pros advise you not to buy stocks. And if you’re not buying, hardly anyone will advise you to sell. Sell
a stock? Are you kidding? It will always come back one day, they say. Even now, people are buying and hoping that their portfolios will miraculously come back to even by the time they retire. Many of
them will be in for a huge shock.
In the 1990s, it seemed so easy to pick winning stocks. Many advo-cates of buy and hold point to the successful record of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. What the experts fail to tell you is that Buffett
almost never buys the stocks of technology companies, has the skill to take apart and analyze a balance sheet and the patience to stick it out for the long haul, and is willing to wait indefinitely until he gets
the price he wants. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for people to emulate Buffett. They don’t take the time to do the necessary research, they get too emotional about their stock picks, and they get lured into
buying the wrong stocks. They’d be better off in a mutual fund that beats both bear and bull markets.
The Market Doesn’t Always Go Up
Nearly everyone connected to Wall Street says that the average yearly return on the stock market for the last 60 years is 11 percent (one of the reasons why you should buy and hold forever). The one fact
they forget to tell you is that the stocks in nearly all the stock indexes are routinely shifted to make room for more profitable companies. The indexes remove companies that have gone bankrupt, no longer
meet the index requirements, or no longer reflect the index’s philosophy. In fact, most major indexes make dozens of changes to their listings each year.
If you want to get really picky, of the original Dow 12 stocks in 1896, only General Electric remains in the index. The other companies, such as American Tobacco and U.S. Leather, either went out of
business or merged with other companies. I guess you could say that it’s any-one’s guess how much the market has really gone up or down in the last 100 years. As many people have learned the hard way,
buy and hold fails miserably in a bear market. In addition, even if the market goes up, that doesn’t mean that your stocks will.
The Markets Are Not Fair to Individual Investors
If you are going to participate in the stock market, you have to know the truth: The markets are not fair to individual investors. To learn what really happens on Wall Street, read former SEC Chairman
Arthur Levitt’s book Take on the Street: What Wall Street and Corporate Amer-ica Don’t Want You to Know (Pantheon Books, 2002). It is an inside look at what happens behind the scenes on Wall Street,
including polit-ical maneuvering, manipulation, lies, distortions, and other schemes designed to keep individual investors in the dark. Many of the worst offenders are company insiders and Wall Street
players, including stock analysts, who have access to information that they aren’t willing to share with individual investors. The insiders know how to maneuver around the rules.
Martin Weiss, author of The Ultimate Safe Money Guide (John Wiley & Sons, 2002), mentions a number of outright fraudulent activi-ties that some companies engage in: padded sales reports, misreported
options, fake analyst ratings, and stockbrokers who attempt to swindle clients.
In my opinion, the biggest game of all is trying to convince people that the markets are fair and equitable and that everyone has an equal chance to make money. Some people who are connected to the
financial markets attempt to manipulate the markets by passing out false email messages, posting fake messages in Internet chat rooms, calling gullible strangers on the phone, and going on television to
pump up a stock.
Others, such as institutional investors or professional traders, will buy or sell huge numbers of shares in a single day just to fool the pub-lic into thinking that there is a “rally” or a “correction” in the stock.
When the public reacts accordingly, these investors do the opposite.
Of course it doesn’t have to be this way. It will take a combination of government intervention (including a stronger and well-financed Securi-ties and Exchange Commission), politicians who are willing
to stand up to Wall Street’s special interests, and investors who are unwilling to par-ticipate in a rigged game. Until the market is truly fair, individual investors would be advised to be careful. It will take a
long time before many people will trust the markets again. (Perhaps Wall Street likes it that way. If the markets are too dangerous for individual investors, you have no choice but to give your money to the
Not Everyone Should Invest in Individual Stocks
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Although I believe that people should learn everything they can about the market (which is why I wrote this book), overall I think that most people should be cautious about buying or selling individual
stocks. I know this is an unusual conclusion after writing a book about stocks. (And believe me, I know this is not a popular position to take!) In my opinion, there are many less risky things to do with
your money than investing it directly in the stock market. It’s an extremely tough game to master, and only a few actually succeed at it.
I think that many individual investors don’t have the time, the knowledge, or the discipline to buy individual stocks. You can’t just buy a stock and go to sleep. You have to closely monitor individual
stocks, and, unfortunately, most people don’t have the opportunity to do that.
There are many hidden pitfalls that make investing in the stock market risky. Until the markets are truly fair for the individual investor, which isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, my advice is to be very
wary about investing directly in the market. The risks are too great. (This will change when the stock market environment is as fair for individual investors as it is for large investors.)
That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t be paying attention to the market. The time will come when out of all the chaos a fair, trust-worthy, and investor-friendly market will be created. When the
time is right, you might consider investing in individual stocks. Until then, learn everything you can about the market, but don’t participate until you fully understand the risks and rewards.
And Yet There Are Exceptions
On the other hand, I don’t want to discourage those who feel that they can win the stock market game. If you are excited by the stock market and feel that you can make money at it, by all means, set aside
a small amount of money and give it your best shot. You don’t need a fortune to make a fortune in the market. (I know a female trader who turned $5000 into $500,000 during the bull market.) Even if you
make only a couple of hundred dollars a week in the market, the lessons you’ll learn will be priceless. As long as you are aware of the risks (that you could lose all your money), go ahead and take a
chance. I still stand by what I said earlier: Most people should not buy individual stocks (although buying mutual funds makes sense for many people). Perhaps you’re not like everyone else (after all,
you’re reading a book about a subject that many people are avoiding).
A Trading Strategy That Works
Now that we nearly at the end of the book, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to reveal a sophisticated stock trading strategy that works in both bull and bear markets. It’s likely that you’ll
never use the strategy, and you certainly won’t use it at first, but understanding how it works may give you an inside look at how some traders attempt to beat the market.
The trading strategy I’m about to reveal could help you to make a lot of money, far more than the price of this book. It’s so simple that it will amaze you, although you must be aware that it’s controversial.
There are a lot of professionals on Wall Street, including many money managers, who have done everything in their power to prevent people from using it. It goes against everything that Wall Street has
been preaching for 200 years.
This strategy was discovered by an acquaintance of mine who worked at a midsized company. I was surprised to see his portfolios double and triple, easily beating the returns of nearly every mutual fund.
His biggest mistake: A few years ago, he taught the successful strategy to other employees. Before long, half the employees in the company were using the system, disrupting work and annoying those who
didn’t participate (there’s nothing more frustrating than watching coworkers make more money than you). Eventually, the company he worked for refused to let him use the strategy.
Finally, this strategy is not for beginners. To use it, you must monitor the U.S. and international markets closely and make last-minute decisions that could cost you a lot of money if you’re wrong.
How the Strategy Works
The strategy is simple: When the U.S. markets are up a lot (approxi-mately 1 percent or more), you move your money from a mutual fund money market account into an international fund. More often than
not, the foreign markets (primarily Europe and Asia) will follow the U.S. markets. It is estimated that foreign markets follow the U.S. markets about two-thirds of the time or more.
The strategy works because of the way mutual fund companies price their funds. Instead of updating the net asset value (NAV) of a particular fund the next day, mutual fund companies price their funds on
the basis of the previous day’s close, called “stale” pricing. The strategy works because of the time difference between U.S. and foreign markets—what some might call a loophole. The 6-hour difference
between U.S. and European markets allow you to arbitrage the funds (take advantage of the inefficiencies in their prices). According to critic Jason Zweig of Money magazine, “It’s like knowing
tomorrow’s news today.”
The strategy is known by a variety of names, including time-zone trading, market timing, and in-and-out trading. Gary Smith, author of How I Trade for a Living (John Wiley & Sons, 1999), briefly wrote
about similar fund trading strategies. However, very few people are aware that the strategy works most efficiently in a 401(k) or 403(b). Although mutual fund companies have been aggressive about
stopping people from trading mutual funds in taxable accounts, many have allowed 401(k) and 403(b) plan participants to continue to use this strategy. To my knowledge, no one has ever revealed this
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1. You begin with a company-sponsored 401(k) or 403(b) tax-deferred savings plan. The beauty of using the strategy in such a plan is that your gains are tax-free. (Although this strategy also
works using a regular taxable account, most mutual fund compa-nies penalize you for using market-timing tactics.)
2. Check to make sure that the company you work for allows you to make unlimited and penalty-free exchanges between investment funds.
3. Move all of your cash into a money market account and wait.
1. When the Dow is having a particularly strong day (and it’s hoped that the Nasdaq is, too), especially into the close, transfer all or part of your money into a European/Asian mutual fund
2. 4:00 p.m. Eastern time.
4. Perhaps seven times out of ten, the next day, European marketsand sometimes Asian markets will follow the Dow. On a greatday, you’ll get a 2 percent return (not bad for one day). On
atypical day, you’ll get 0.5 to 1 percent.
5. If the Dow is still strong for a second day, keep your money in the European fund for another day. Otherwise, transfer all your money back to the money market fund. During a bull market,
keeping your money in European/Asian mutual funds for several days was not uncommon. In a bear market, you almost always had to move your money out the next day.
6. When using this system, the most important part of the day is the last 15 minutes of the U.S. market. This is when you decide whether to transfer your money. When you’re not sure, you don’t
move, or you move only 50 percent.
7. Although using this method is sometimes boring, making even 1 percent a week adds up to 52 percent a year. In a bear market, you are lucky to get 0.5 percent a week.
8. The beauty of the system is that you are in cash most of the time and enter the market only when you are confident that the market is going up. Hopefully, you are in cash on the worst market
days and are participating in international markets on the best days.
When you use this system, you spend no more than 15 minutes a day deciding whether to enter the market. In a bear market, you are out of the market most of the time. In a bull market, you are in most of
the time. It can’t get much simpler than that! If you can make as little as 1 or 2 percent a month in the market, a seemingly easy feat, the numbers really add up. (Most pros will tell you that you should buy
and hold mutual funds so that you don’t miss out on the best days. Although this makes sense, you also want to avoid the worst days!)
You will have to experiment to determine what are the best days to move. For example, some people who use this method don’t move on Fridays. Others move only when the Dow is up a huge amount, at
1.5 percent. Others move if the Dow is up at least 1 percent. You also have to check European markets for any news that could affect the next day’s stock prices. Finally, you need to carefully study which
countries your European fund is investing in.
What the Critics Say
Mutual fund companies don’t like market timers and will do everything in their power to discourage timing strategies. Many of them penalize traders with taxable accounts by tacking on 1 percent
penalties if they notice market-timing tactics. [It’s also possible that in the future mutual fund companies will tack on penalties if you use this strategy in your 401(k) or 403(b).]
Critics contend that this strategy punishes long-term investors in foreign mutual funds. Jason Zweig wrote in Money magazine that in just a few years, short-term mutual fund traders have transferred mil-
lions of dollars ($420 million, according to him) from the accounts of long-term investors to their own accounts. Zweig suggests that the strategy, although legal, is unethical and should be stopped.
Basically, mutual fund traders are taking advantage of a loophole in the way mutual funds are priced. Others might argue this is simply the capital-ist system at work. In the end, you have to judge for
yourself whether it is capitalism at work or unethical greed.
As you know from reading this book, mutual funds are supposed to be long-term investments, not vehicles for short-term trading. That is why market timing drives mutual fund managers crazy. They hate
it when you transfer money into and out of international funds. There-fore, once they identify you as a market timer, it is likely that you will no longer be allowed to use the strategy.
Although this strategy worked in the past, there is no guarantee that it will work in the future. Just like other market timing strategies that have worked before (e.g., the January effect), once too many
people find out about them, they cease to work. In addition, Zweig says that people don’t realize how easy it is to lose money when you use this strategy. (On the other hand, I know from using the system
that when you are wrong, your risks are minimized because you are trading mutual funds, not individual stocks.) Even on the worst days, you prob-ably won’t lose more than .5 or 1 percent. Eventually,
you will learn the best days to “jump,” assuming you are allowed by your 401(k) or 403(b) plan provider. Nevertheless, most experts claim that market-timing strategies do not work.
Why have I spent so much time telling you about a strategy that might not work anymore? First, many mutual fund companies do allow 401(k) and 403(b) plan participants to use this strategy. If you thor-
oughly understand the risks, rewards, and limitations of using this strat-egy and don’t feel it is unethical, you might want to investigate it further. Second, to be a successful investor or trader, you have to
think differently from everyone else. I’m hoping that revealing this strategy will help get you started.
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The Games Analysts Play
There are a few stock analysts we will never forget. This includes analyst Walter Piecyk, with his $1000 a share price target for Qualcomm in 1999 (or $250 if you adjust for a 4-to-1 split). Although he did lower
his price target to $200 in 2000, it was too little and too late. The press also had a field day with Henry Blodget, the former Wall Street analyst who put outrageously high price targets on Amazon.com (AMZN)
when it was trading at $250 a share. (Ironically, Blodget’s price target on Amazon was initially correct. Amazon rose to a split-adjusted high of $678 a share before falling to less than $10 a share.) It wasn’t just
Blodget who gave Amazon a buy or strong buy rating—30 other analysts made the same call.
Years later, it was reported that while Blodget was publicly telling people to buy many of these overvalued stocks, he was privately writing emails to his colleagues urging them to sell.
“What a POS,” he reportedly wrote in one email. Most of the stocks Blodget touted went to under $5 within a year of his rec-ommendation. Meanwhile, his firm paid him more than $12 mil-lion for his analysis,
perhaps not because of his stock picks but because of the investment banking clients he brought in.
One of the most infamous Internet bulls was stock analyst Mary Meeker. She told anyone who would listen to buy Priceline (PCLN) in 1999, when the stock was trading at $165 a share. She repeated her buy
recommendation at $78, and she continuously and publicly told investors to buy until Priceline fell to less than $3 a share. Forget about P/Es, Meeker said. It was reported that Meeker and the Wall Street firm she
worked for made millions in fees that year. (Finally, when Priceline was at $3 a share, Meeker told investors to hold.)
Here’s how the game was played: The investment banking divisions of the major brokerage firms are paid to raise money for companies, so they strongly encourage the firms’ analysts to be bullish on the
companies the firms represent. That is why ana-lysts will rarely say anything controversial or negative about a current or future client.
In a scathing report on how analysts do business, the CBS program 60 Minutes interviewed Tom Brown, an analyst who had been fired by a major Wall Street firm. Brown revealed some of the secrets behind
analysts’ recommendations. “I don’t know frankly how some of these analysts live with themselves,” he said at the time. Brown said that it was hard to look at himself in the mirror, knowing that he might have
caused some people to lose 50 percent of their retirement money. “They really are cheerlead-ers,” Brown said of analysts. “The investment banking group wants you to be wildly bullish about everybody.”
Of course, there were reputable analysts who told investors the truth about the highly inflated technology stocks, especially the Internet stocks. For example, Ashok Kumar, a semiconductor analyst for a Wall Street
firm, downgraded Intel from a strong buy to a buy. The stock lost 20 points over a 2-week period. (In the wacky world of Wall Street, a downgrade from strong buy to buy is like issuing a sell recommendation.)
Other analysts criti-cized Kumar’s rating and considered the price drop to be a buy-ing opportunity. They were wrong.
Another reputable stock analyst, Dan Niles, turned negative on the telecommunication stocks he was covering. As it turned out, even the public didn’t want to listen. It was reported that he received hate mail and
threats as he candidly analyzed the tele-com sector. On the other hand, dozens more analysts took advan-tage of investors’ greed by making outrageous price calls based on nothing more than pie-in-the-sky stories
and ridiculous valu-ations. If you looked at the fundamentals of many of these com-panies, it was quite clear that they weren’t going to be making money anytime soon, if ever.
Although it is too late for those who got talked into buying many of the Internet stocks at the top, there are many lessons to be learned from the games analysts play. If you are going to invest in the stock market, it
is essential that you understand how upgrades and downgrades influence a stock, and that you learn about the incestuous relationship that analysts have with the investment banking divisions of the brokerage
The SEC has talked about eliminating the conflict of interest that exists between investment bankers and the analysts in the research department. Until the system is changed, however, you can’t trust what analysts
or their research departments say about stocks.
Before you attempt to buy your first stock, be aware that you are enter-ing a battlefield populated by sharks that want your money. If you are going to invest in the market, you must fight them with
knowledge (a very effective shark repellant). If you aren’t willing to do your own homework (independently do research on companies and stocks) and must depend on a stockbroker or a stranger on
television to tell you what stocks to buy or sell, you are destined to lose money. You have no one to blame but yourself when you do.
If you lose money, the government won’t help you, nor will anyone on Wall Street. Remember that making money in the stock market is serious business. It is as serious as raising children or working at a
full-time job. In the end, you must take responsibility for your own invest-ments. You’re completely on your own.
In the past, many investors and traders made money in the market but had no clue as to how they were doing it. “I’m doing nothing, and look how much money I’m making,” several investors told me.
You should not be surprised to learn that many of these people lost every-thing. In a few years, people will be lulled into thinking that it’s safe to participate in the market again. The historic $8 trillion in
losses will be forgotten. My hope is that after you read this book, you won’t make the same mistakes that millions of other people made in the past.
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Now that you are aware of the risks as well as the rewards, you have a choice. If you are willing to take the time to learn what works on Wall Street, you can survive and prosper as a twenty-first-century
investor. To win, you have to be faster, more knowledgeable, and more flexible than investors in the past. As soon as you put down this book, begin thinking and planning. Don’t stop until you have
created a successful portfolio.
On the other hand, if you decide that stocks are not for you, at least you have a better understanding of how the stock market works. This is information that should help you no matter what you decide to
do in the future. Always be on the lookout for profitable money-making op-portunities while remaining cautious. When in doubt, however, don’t do it.
Finally, I have learned from experience that the best investment you can make is in people. You can’t go wrong spending money on a college education, your home, a new business, your children, or those
who des-perately need your help. This is what I believe: Why make money if you don’t use it to improve your life or the lives of others?
It’s been a pleasure sharing my knowledge with you. I wish all of you the best of luck and hope that all your financial dreams come true.
Knowledge: The Greatest Gift YouCan Give Your Loved Ones
After my father passed away last year, I found a letter written by my grandfather, Charles Sincere, the successful owner of a Chicago stock brokerage firm. The letter, with the title “Open on Your 21st Birthday,”
contained the following financial advice (my grandfather also referred to a Wall Street Journal article in his letter to my father).
1. Begin by paying off all your debts.
2. After being debt-free, you must not be tempted to blowyour money on risky financial ventures.
3. It is hard enough for most people to earn a bare living, including 95 percent who are unable to keep and acquire a fortune. This is not to discourage you but to warn you and give you courage to fight
harder to be one of the 5 percent.
4. Always be prepared for the possibility that you may have to support your parents. In addition, you owe it to your wife and family to buy life insurance.
5. You want the privilege of helping those who are afflictedand impoverished.
6. The most important measure of success is integrity, hardwork, and being right more than 55 percent of the time.This also means diversifying risks so that when you arewrong it won’t break or crimp
7. Never cosign promissory notes to help others.
8. Never buy stocks in small corporations to please friends— easy to buy, hard to sell.
9. Don’t be easy in loaning money except in extreme cases(i.e., don’t let a worthy friend down).
10. Only hard experience, proven by facts, should impress you and cause you to follow the rules just outlined.
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AAA bonds, 20–21 Advice, 164–165, 171, 187 After-hours trading, 53 Amazon.com, 183 American Stock Exchange (AMEX), 6,
7, 84 Annual reports, 93, 95–96 Arbitrage, 180 Ask price, 51–52 Asset allocation, 38–39 Assets, 93, 94 Averaging down, 72
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Fundamental analysis, 89–96 annual report in, 95–96 balance sheet in, 93–94 and company managers, 92 concepts behind, 90–95 definition of, 89 and earnings estimates, 100 earnings per share in, 99–100 income statement in, 97–99 industry
knowledge for, 90–91 industry leaders identification for,
91–92and insiders, 92–93overview of, 90problems with, 104stock ratios in, 100–103and technical analysis, 173–174
Futures exchanges, 138–139
GARP (growth at a reasonable price),
73 GDP (gross domestic product), 153 General Electric, 176 “Going on margin,” 63–64 Graham, Benjamin, 105 “Greater fool theory,” 73–74 Greed, 160–161 Greenspan, Alan, 141 Gross domestic product (GDP), 153 Growth at a reasonable price
(GARP), 73 Growth investors/investing, 73, 101 Growth stocks, 31
Head and shoulders pattern, 120–121 Head fakes, 124 Hedge, 81 Hedge funds, 180 Home ownership, 26 Hoover, Herbert, 65 Hope, 161, 171–172 How to Make Money in Stocks (William
O’Neil), 75–76 Humes, James C., 107 “Identifying the leading company,”
91–92 In-and-out trading, 180–183 Income statements, 97–99 Income stocks, 30–31 Index funds, 24–25 Industry knowledge, 90–91 Industry leaders, 91–92 Inflation, 15, 152, 153–154 Initial public offerings (IPOs), 45–47 Insider trading, 146
Insiders, 92–93 Intel, 184–185 Interest rates, 21, 150–151, 152 International funds, 180 Internet, 105, 169 Intrinsic value, 31 Investment banking, 184 Investolator, 74 Investors, individual, 4, 8–9, 176–177 Investor’s Business Daily, 91, 144 IPOs
(see Initial public offerings) IRAs, 23 “Irrational exuberance,” 141, 150
Japan, 154 Junk bonds, 21
Kumar, Ashok, 184–185
“Learn everything you can about the industry,” 90–91 Learning from mistakes, 163–164,
174–175 Lebed, Jonathon, 160 Lefevre, Edwin, 128 Level II software, 62 Leveraging, 63 Levitt, Arthur, 176 Liabilities, 93, 94 Limit order, 59–60 Line charts, 109–110 Livermore, Jesse, 128–129, 161
Load funds, 24 Losing stock, selling, 158
MA (see Moving average) Managers, company, 92 Manipulation, 33 Margin calls, 63–64 Margins, 63–64 Market capitalization, 44–45 Market crash(es):
of 1929, 65–66, 144, 161
of 1987, 57, 144, 161 Market makers, 14–15 Market orders, 58–61 Market timing, 78–79, 180–183 Maturity date, 20 The media, 143–144 Meeker, Mary, 101, 184 The Merc (Chicago Mercantile
Exchange), 139 Minis, 139 Mistake(s), 157–169
of bad advisors, 164–165 of emotional involvement, 160–161 of following the crowd, 165–166 of lack of discipline/flexibility, 163 of lack of diversification, 162 of lack of preparation for the worst,
166–167 learning from, 174–175 of letting winning stocks lose, 159–160 of missing out/mismanaging money,
of not learning from mistakes,
of not selling losing stocks, 158 Momentum investors, 73–74 Money management, 167–168 Money market funds, 25–26 Moving average (MA), 132–133 Munis, 20 Mutual fund money market accounts,
180 Mutual fund redemptions, 144 Mutual funds, 22–25, 180–183
NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers), 7
Nasdaq (see National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quo-tation System)
Nasdaq 100 index (QQQ), 84–85
Nasdaq Composite Index, 12
National Association of Securities Deal-ers Automated Quotation System (Nasdaq), 6–8, 14–15, 33, 57, 78, 84–85, 150
National Association of Securities Deal-ers (NASD), 7
Net asset value (NAV), 23–24, 180
Net worth, 93
New York, 5–6
New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), 6, 10, 14
News-based trading, 80
Niles, Dan, 185
1929 stock market crash, 65–66, 144, 161
1987 stock market crash, 57, 144, 161
No-load funds, 24
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On-balance volume (OBV), 134–135
O’Neil, William, 75–76, 158
Online brokerage divisions, 56
Online investing, 58
Online traders/trading, 58, 78
Orders, market: going on margin with, 63–64 placing, 61–62 routing of, 62–63 types of, 58–61
Oscillators, 137–138 OTC (over-the-counter) market, 33 Outstanding shares, 43–44 Over-the-counter (OTC) market, 33 Overbought, 135 Oversold, 135
P/E ratio (see Price/earnings ratio) P/S (price-to-sales) ratio, 103 Pacific Stock Exchange, 7 Patterns, stock, 119–125 double bottom, 122–124 double top, 122, 123 gaps in, 125–127 head and shoulders, 120–121 reverse head and
shoulders, 121–122 triple top, 122 PEG (price/earnings/growth) ratio, 102 Penalties, market-timing, 182 Penny stocks, 33–34 Philadelphia Stock Exchange, 7 Piecyk, Walter, 183 Pink sheet stocks, 33 Points, 12–13 Politics, 154
Portfolios, 37 Position trading, 78 PPI (producer price index), 153 Prechter, Robert, 154 Preferred stocks, 5 Premarket, 53 Premiums, 83–84 Preparation for the worst, 166–167, 175 Previous close, 51 Price, stock, 13, 49–53
reasons for rise/fall in, 155 and stock quote, 49–52 Price/earnings/growth (PEG) ratio, 102 Price/earnings (P/E) ratio, 100–102 Price-to-sales (P/S) ratio, 103 Priceline, 101, 184 Principal, 21 Producer price index (PPI), 153
Professional traders, 10 Profit, 13–15 Prospectus, 46–47 Psychological indicators, 142–145 Psychology, 172–173 Pump and dump, 145–146 Put options, 81, 82
QQQ (see Nasdaq 100 index) Qualcomm, 183 Quote, stock, 49–52
Ratios, stock, 100–103
Real estate investment, 26–27, 151
Real estate investment trusts (REITs), 27
REITs (real estate investment trusts), 27
Relative strength, 76
Relative strength indicator (RSI), 135–137
Reminiscences of a Stock Operator (Edwin Lefevre), 128
Return on equity (ROE), 103
Reversals, trend, 115–116
Reverse head and shoulders pattern, 121–122
Reverse splits, 41
Risk, 15–16, 20–21, 178
Risk tolerance, 38
ROE (return on equity), 103
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano, 63, 66
RSI (see Relative strength indicator)
Russell 2000 index, 12
Santayana, George, 64
SEC (see U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission)
Sectors, 11, 29–30 Securities, 4 Selling short, 41–43, 128 Sentiment analysis, 141–145 and capitulation, 144–145 and the media, 143–144 and mutual fund redemptions, 144 VIX for, 142–143 September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,
143 Shareholders, 4 Shareholders’ equity, 93, 94 Shares, 4 float, 44 outstanding, 43–44 The Shawshank Redemption (film), 161 Short-term traders, 9, 162 Shorting stocks, 128 Shorting the rallies, 79 Sideways markets, 28
Sideways trends, 114–115 Siegel, Jeremy, 15 Sincere, Charles, 187 60 Minutes, 184 Slow investment strategy(-ies), 69–76 bottom fishing as, 71–72 buy-and-hold, 70–71 buy-on-the dip, 71 CANSLIM as, 75–76 contrarian
investing as, 74 dollar-cost averaging as, 72 growth investing as, 73 momentum investing as, 73–74 value investing as, 72–73 Small Order Execution System (SOES), 57 Smith, Gary, 180 SOES (Small Order Execution System),
57 S&P 500 (SPY), 85 S&P (Standard & Poor’s Corporation), 12
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Specialists, 14, 62 Split-adjusted prices, 42 Spread, 51–52 SPY (S&P 500), 85 “Stale pricing,” 180, 183 Standard & Poor’s Corporation (S&P),
12 Stock analysis, 100 Stock certificates, 4–5 Stock charts, 108–109 Stock exchanges, 6–8 Stock market, 3–17
corporate influence on, 8 crashes of (see Crash[es], market) exchanges for, 6–8 history of, 5–6 individual investors in, 8–9 professional traders in, 10 and shares, 4 short-term traders in, 9 and stock certificates, 4–5 tracking the, 10–13
Stock patterns (see Patterns, stock)Stock price (see Price, stock)Stock quote, 49–52Stock splits, 40–41Stockbrokers, 56Stocks:
cost of, 13 definition of, 4 dividend, 32 growth, 31 income, 30–31 market capitalization of, 44–45 penny, 33–34 profit from, 13–15 reasons for buying, 5, 15 risk with, 15–16 and sectors, 29–30 types of, 29–35 value, 31 (See also Shares)
Stop limit order, 61 Stop-loss order, 60–61
Strategy(-ies), 9 fast trading, 77–85 guidelines for, 69–70 slow investment, 69–76 successful, 179–183
Supply and demand, 155 Support, 116–118 Swing trading, 78 “Swiss cheese principle,” 168
Take on the Street (Arthur Levitt),
176 “Talking to company managers,” 92 Tax-deferred retirement plans, 22–23,
180, 183 Technical analysis, 107–129 advanced indicators/oscillators in,
132–138bar charts for, 110–111candlestick charts for, 111, 112definition of, 108and fundamental analysis,
173–174 and gaps, 125–127 line charts for, 109–110 problems with, 127 stock charts for, 108–109 stock patterns in, 119–125 support and resistance in, 116–119 trend lines for, 111–116 volume in, 131–132
Technical analysts, 108 Technical indicators, 132–137 10–K filing, 93 10–Q filing, 93 TheGlobe.com, 46 Time-zone trading, 180–183 Top line, 97 Tracking the market, 10–13 Trailing P/E, 101 Train, John, 168 Trend reversals, 115–116
Trends, 11, 111–116 Value stocks, 31
down-, 112–113 VIX (see Chicago Board Options
sideways, 114–115 Exchange Volatility Index)
up-, 113–114 Volume, 33, 131–132
Triple top pattern, 122
Tulip bulb mania, 168–169 Wall Street, 6
Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 11
Unemployment report, 153 Warren, Ted, 74, 159
Uptick, 42 Weiss, Martin D., 176
Uptrends, 113–114 “Whisper number,” 100
U.S. Department of Labor, 153 Wilshire 5000, 12
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commis- Winning stocks, losing from,
sion (SEC), 34–35, 47, 63, 66, 92, 159–160
146, 185 Writing covered calls, 83–84
U.S. Treasuries, 20, 25–26, 166 WSJ (see Wall Street Journal)
VA Linux, 46 Yield, 20
Value investors, 72–73, 101
Value Line Investment Survey, 91 Zweig, Jason, 180, 182, 183
About the Author
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Michael Sincere began trading stocks through the Internet in 1995. Because he wanted to learn more about the stock market, he inter-viewed some of the top financial experts in the country. He decided to
write a book about what he learned; the result was 101 Investment Lessons from the Wizards of Wall Street (Career Press, 1999).
For his second book, The Long-Term Day Trader (Career Press, 2000), coauthored with Deron Wagner, Sincere explained the aggressive investment strategies he helped develop. His third book, The After-
Hours Trader (McGraw-Hill, 2000), helps investors and traders under-stand and profit from the high-octane world of after-hours trading.
Sincere has written a number of columns and magazine articles on investing and trading. He has been interviewed on dozens of national radio programs and has appeared on financial news programs,
includ-ing CNBC and ABC’s World News Now! to explain his trading strate-gies and talk about his books.
You can e-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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